Monday, December 16, 2013

Coming Soon

I regret that I have not been able to finish my Daily Apple for Sunday.  I have one in the works, but as I've also been baking cookies like a fiendish baker all weekend and packaging them up to send out for Christmas presents tomorrow, I haven't been able to get back to the Daily Apple.  Hopefully I'll have the entry done tomorrow night.

In the meantime, here's a clue:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Apple #654: Eggnog

One of the enduring mysteries of Christmas is egg nog.  I know it involves liquid eggs and the optional alcohol, and I've even drunk some a time or two.  But it was the stuff from the grocery store so I wonder, how representative of true egg nog is that?  What is the nog?  And how did someone come up with the idea of drinking eggs as a festive thing, anyway?

If the nutmeg on top of your eggnog looks like this, you have too much time on your hands.
(Photo from Why'd You Eat That?)

The Nog

  • Nog comes from an old English word that refers to a strong beer or ale.  There's also the word "noggin" which means "head." As in your noodle (brain) and your noggin (head).
  • It's possible that "noggin" and "nog" are related -- but not in the way you think (drink nog/strong ale and your noggin/head gets fuzzy).  "Noggin" actually means "small cup, or small drink."  Which means that the ale in your eggnog is strong stuff, so you'd better have only a little bit of it.
  • The ancestor of eggnog is something called posset, which is a mixture of eggs, milk, and ale or sherry. At first they made it like a drink, but as time passed and people got better at making it, they let it thicken and they added honey and breadcrumbs and possibly almonds.  The result looked a lot like creme brulee, except posset was thick enough to slice.  And then they added brandy.

Posset.  The name sounds totally unappetizing, but when you see it here with candied orange peel on top, you have an entirely different reaction, don't you?  This is the ancestor of eggnog.
(Photo from Why'd You Eat That?)

  • So maybe people thought, hey, posset is so good, I want to drink it.  And let's make it sweeter besides.  So eggnog's components are:
    • Eggs beaten with sugar
    • Milk or cream or both
    • Some kind of alcohol (in the US, this is often bourbon but back in the early days it was rum)
    • Most people in the US also add nutmeg.
  • Above all, eggnog is supposed to be rich and thick, and strong if you're going for the alcoholic version -- which is the historically accurate option.
  • Eggnog was first dreamed up in the 17th century.  No refrigeration.  Most people couldn't afford a lot of eggs, especially if they were city-dwellers.  If they saw one glass of milk, it was a rare month.  So, a drink that included multiple eggs and milk and cream -- whooee, that's the stuff for the uber-rich.
  • A fancy, expensive drink like this you wouldn't have all that often.  You would reserve it for special occasions.  Like Christmas.  Thus, eggnog for Christmas.
  • Apparently, the uber-rich back in the 17th century also liked to tie one on.  Because eggnog back then and now packed a punch (pun).

Store-Bought versus the Home Version

  • One mixologist says the eggnog you get in the grocery store is "so overly-pasteurized and full of preservatives that it would be anything but enjoyable to slug down at a Christmas party."
  • Ah, here are the ingredients in one grocery store eggnog: "milk, high fructose corn syrup, regular corn syrup, mono and diglycerides, tetrasodium phosphate, guar gum, carrageenan, artificial vanilla, egg base."  Yeah.  So pretty much any eggnog you make yourself might take you some more time, but is bound to taste better.
  • His recipe does sound good (his name is Jeffrey Morgenthaler).  He uses eggs and sugar (you're supposed to blend these together before you do anything else), add nutmeg, brandy, spiced rum, and whole milk and heavy cream. Yowza.  That would be one thick eggnog.  If you're trying to watch your dairy intake, this is not the drink for you.

Eggnog Safety

  • About that business of pasteurization.  It is kind of important, especially if you're going to be selling your eggnog to other people.  If you're going to make your own at home, it might be a good idea to take a few steps to protect yourself from possibly getting salmonella from the eggs. 
  • All commercially-raised eggs are washed with a special liquid that helps kill salmonella, but it's possible that trace amounts could slip through.  The CDC estimates that 1 in 20,000 eggs have some salmonella contamination.  Not many.
  • If you want to be extra-cautious with your eggnog, slowly heat the eggs and half of the milk together in a pan, stirring constantly, until the liquid reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then add the sugar, then chill. Once it's cooled down to refrigerator temperature, then add any other ingredients and the alcohol.

In this recipe, she combined her eggs, milk, and sugar, then heated to 170-175 F.  She said it took about 25 minutes for it to reach temperature.  And you must stir constantly.
(Photo from Tasty Kitchen)

  • You could also use eggs that have been pasteurized, or heat-treated, to kill salmonella.  If you use these, you don't have to worry about salmonella, and don't have to heat your eggs before making your nog.
  • But one cook says that he tried pasteurized eggs, and "they did not work. They didn't separate well and the whites did not froth up at all."  He said the next year, he used organic eggs, and they made the frothiest, foamiest eggnog ever. (His grandfather's eggnog recipe is available here.)
  • Alcohol will not kill salmonella.  Sorry, folks.

Versions of Eggnog

Another eggnog by Morgenthaler.  This one uses tequila and Amontillado sherry.  Yes, the stuff in the Edgar Allan Poe story.
(Photo from Jeffrey Morgenthaler)

  • Like any good food or drink, there are a million different ways to make eggnog.
  • Martha Stewart makes hers with whole milk and heavy cream, like Morgenthaler, but she uses boubon and rum and cognac.  I think Martha's going to get a little tiddly.
  • Elise at Simply Recipes makes hers with only the yolks, plus cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg, any kind of milk you prefer and cream, and bourbon + brandy or boubon + rum.
  • Emeril's recipe isn't all that unusual -- milk and cream, vanilla and nutmeg, bourbon and brandy. He also adds a pinch of salt, which is probably a good idea.

Eggnog for the beach: the nog plus vodka and Kahlua over ice.
(Photo and recipe from A Beach Home Companion)

  • Esquire gives a mixture of good and bad advice (also par for the course).  Their recipe uses cognac and rum, and they say to separate the yolks from the whites.  They mix the yolks with the sugar first and then the alcohol and they say, "Pouring the liquor into the yolks has the effect of cooking them more lovingly than any stove could," which besides being kind of ridiculous is a lie.  They add the eggs whites and nutmeg at the end. They say if it's too sweet, add more cognac.  That last bit is probably about right.
  • Charles Mingus' eggnog recipe "calls for enough alcohol to put down an elephant." One egg yolk, two sugars, one shot of brandy and one shot of 151 rum for each person, plus some milk and vanilla ice cream and a lot of nutmeg. Instead of rum, he might use rye or Scotch. "Depends on how drunk I get while I'm tasting it."
  • Gluten-Free Cate heats her eggs for safety, and she also heats her milk and vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and cloves in a pot first.  I bet that would smell fantastic.  Plus nutmeg, bourbon, and rum.

Gluten-Free Cate's Laite de Poule (French for eggnog) with bourbon and rum and cinnamon.
(Photo from Girl Cooks World)

  • Bobby Flay makes his eggnog semi-Puerto Rico-style.  He uses whole milk and coconut milk and heavy cream, vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, and golden rum.

Puerto Rican eggnog, or coquito, is made with rum and coconut milk.  The coquito pictured here was also made with evaporated milk.
(Photo from Always Order Dessert)

  • Mexico's eggnog is called rompope and also uses rum (or else grain alcohol -- yikes!) and a whole lot of cinnamon.
  • In Peru, eggnog is called pisco and is made with Peru's pomace brandy.
  • Dutch eggnog is Advocaat, which uses eggs, sugar, and brandy.  Nigella Lawson doesn't make eggnog; she gets a bottle of Advocaat.
  • Japan's closest thing to eggnog is Tamagozake, which is sake with sugar and a raw egg. It's sometimes called sake-nog.
  • By the way, I've looked at some non-alcoholic eggnog recipes.  I thought they might say to add more nutmeg or something to make up for that missing flavor, but they don't seem to.  They seem the same as the alcoholic versions, just without the the alcohol.  So you could use a recipe that calls for alcohol and omit the liquor part.  You might want to double the amounts, though, so you have more of it to serve to your guests.

Non-alcoholic eggnog.  Pretty much the same but sans liquor.  How you make that little whipped cream castle, the recipe doesn't say.  Probably it's all in the wrist.
(Photo and recipe from

Online Etymology Dictionary, nog
Nanna Rognalvdardottir, History of Eggnog, What's Cooking America
Jeannie Nichols,, Make your eggnog safe
University of Minnesota Extension, Handle eggs properly to prevent salmonella

Monday, December 2, 2013

Apple #653: Vince Guaraldi

Greetings, faithful Daily Apple readers!  Now that our calendars have turned the page to December, I can start giving you Christmas-related posts.

Who is this Vince Guaraldi guy and how is this a Christmas-related post you ask?  Hit play and within one second, you'll know.

Guaraldi the Jazz Musician

  • Vince Guaraldi was very much a San Francisco dude.
    • Born in San Francisco in 1928
    • Graduated from Lincoln High School in SF
    • Went to SF State College
  • He started playing jazz piano in public while he was in college.
  • His first real performances were at the Jackson's Nook, the hungry i, and the legendary Black Hawk (closed in 1963), all  in San Francisco.

Vince Guaraldi early in his career, or at least, before he adopted the facial hair.
(Photo from Derrick Bang's Five Cents Please)

  • Any time people talk about jazz, they get all name-droppy, which always bugs me.  For those of you not well-versed in multitudinous jazz musicians, suffice to say that Guaraldi played with some pretty heavy-hitters early in his career.  For those of you who want the names, here are some of the guys he played with:
    • Sonny Criss
    • Bill Harris
    • Chubby Jackson
    • Art Tatum
    • Woody Herman's Thundering Herd
"It was more than scary," Guaraldi said of working for Art Tatum as an intermission pianist. "I came close to giving up the instrument, and I wouldn't have been the first after working with Art Tatum."
  • Guaraldi's early recordings include sessions with vibraphonist Carl Tjader (1953), and some other recording sessions with trios he played with at various live venues throughout San Francisco.
  • Among his live performances was playing piano in  Carl Tjader's Quintet at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958.  The Quintet got a standing ovation.
  • One heavy-hitter in the jazz world, Jon Hendricks, said of Guaraldi:
"Vince is what you call a piano player. That's different from a pianist. A pianist can play anything you can put in front of him. A piano player can play anything BEFORE you put it in front of him."

I'm not sure when this was taken, but now we're getting into the facial hair.  Perhaps it was around this time that fellow jazz musicians started to call him Dr. Funk.
(Photo from Derrick Bang's Five Cents Please)

  • There's one name-droppy person you need to know.  Fellow San Francisco native Ralph Gleason stopped in at the clubs where Guaraldi was playing.  Gleason was the music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and one of the founders of Rolling Stone.
  • Gleason liked what he heard, and he was also intrigued by Guaraldi's style.  He said that Guaraldi had "stubby, thick, tough little mitts" for hands.  The size of his fingers meant that Guaraldi played the piano physically differently than most people:
"Vince is always pulling splinters from his fingers, driven in when he claws at the wooden baseboard, behind the keys. His fingernails are perpetually split and ragged from hitting that wood. He fingers all wrong when he makes runs and plays chords. All wrong, that is, from the standpoint of efficiency and ‘piano technique.’ He doesn’t make the runs the way it says you should in the Czerny exercise books. He makes the runs the way it fits his stubby little hands. And if he finds shortcuts, and ways to play something with this thumb that ought to be played with his middle finger, he plays it with his thumb. But I’ve noticed over the years in jazz that almost all the good ones do it all wrong, because it’s the sound that matters—and the sound, with Vince, is beautiful and moving." 

Guaraldi's Road to Peanuts

  • In 1959, a French/Portuguese movie called "Black Orpheus" was released.  It was a re-telling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, set during Carnival in Rio. (It won the 1960 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, by the way.)  The film prominently featured a couple of songs in the bossa nova style, one of which was called "Samba of Orpheus."  
  • Here's the song from the movie:

  • Guaraldi wrote his own arrangements of the songs from this film, in particular the "Samba of Orpheus."  Here's his version.  Once the piano kicks in, you will recognize his style instantly.

  • Guaraldi and his trio recorded the songs he adapted from the film soundtrack along with a few others, and they were released on a 1962 LP.  To promote the LP, Guaraldi's producers also released a single which featured "Samba of Orpheus" on the A side.  They couldn't decide what to put on the B side for the longest time, and finally they settled on a piece that Guaraldi wrote, nothing to do with that film.  The B-side song they chose was a little tidbit called "Cast Your Fate to the Wind."
  • Don't recognize it, do you?  But I bet as soon as you push play below, you will know the tune immediately.

  • The single was released to radio stations and it got quite a lot of play in the N California area.  Some inquisitive DJs in Sacramento turned the single over and played the B side, and "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" took off.
  • The song won a Grammy in 1963 and audiences clamored for it. Guaraldi became something of a fixture in the San Francisco music & television scene, producing various jazz-related programs that aired on local TV stations.

It was after "Cast Your Fate" became a hit that Guaraldi began to make all sorts of recordings.
(Photo from Dadrock)

  • OK, so now we here we are in 1963.  "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is a hit in the San Francisco area.  TV producer Lee Mendelson is in San Francisco to work on a documentary about the also-popular comic strip Peanuts, penned by Charles Schulz, who also lived in Northern California.
  • Mendelson was in a taxi, and "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" was playing on the taxi driver's radio. Mendelson liked the song so much, he contacted the music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, who happened to be Ralph Gleason, who happened to have heard Guaraldi play many times and admired his dexterity with his stubby fingers.  
  • Mendelson asked Gleason if he knew the guy who wrote that song he'd heard on the radio, and of course Gleason said he did.  He set up a meeting between Mendelson and Guaraldi and the two met for lunch.  Mendelson told him about the documentary and asked if Guaraldi would be willing to write music to be the background for the show.

Television producer Lee Mendelson. You wouldn't take this guy to be a jazz lover, would you?
(Photo from The Bluegrass Special)

  • Guaraldi said he loved reading Peanuts and would be thrilled.  A few days later, he called Mendelson and said he had something. He was so excited, he played the tune to him over the phone.
"I was blown away!" Mendelson said. "It simply SOUNDED like the characters in Peanuts. He finished playing and got on the phone. 'What do you think?' he asked.'"It's sensational, perfect! Do you have a name for it yet?' 'I thought we should call it "Linus and Lucy,"' he replied. Little did Vince and I know what that would mean to our futures." (from Snoopy and the Gang)
  • The documentary was called "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" -- not to be confused with the animated feature.  The documentary was never released, never shown to the public.  Mendelson couldn't get anyone to buy it.
  • Mendelson also made a pilot TV show about the world's worst baseball player, Charlie Brown.  The pilot was rejected by all three networks, and that never went anywhere either.
  • Coca-Cola somehow got wind of either the pilot or the documentary, or something, but anyway they had the idea that a Charlie Brown Christmas special might go over well.  They contacted Mendelson and asked if he would be interested in making that, and said that Coca-Cola would be its sponsor.
  • Mendelson asked Schulz to put together an idea (a.k.a. a "creative treatment"), and the next day, the two of them gave Coke a single-page, triple-spaced description of what this Peanuts Christmas special might be like.  In reply, Coke sent Schulz and Mendelson this telegram: 
  • When Mendelson began working on this Christmas special, he contacted Guaraldi again and asked if they could use is music for the special.  Rumor has it that Schulz did not much like jazz, but he went along with what the producers wanted -- which was Guaraldi's music.
  • The rest, as they say, is history.

This iconic moment from A Charlie Brown Christmas would soon be in everyone's future.
(Photo from Houston Press)

Guaraldi "captured something about the lilting quality of the kids," remembers Jean Schulz, Charles' widow. "The way they walk and bounce a little bit — he captured that in his music." 

  • Even after all the success of the multiple Peanuts specials that were made over the years, Guaraldi still performed live in Northern California, sometimes for no cover charge.

1970s Guaraldi
(Photo from Derrick Bang's Five Cents Please)

  • In fact, the night he died, February 6, 1976, he played a gig at Butterfield's in Menlo Park, CA. One reader of a blog about Guaraldi describes his final night this way:
"After concluding the first set at Butterfield's Nightclub in Menlo Park, California, Guaraldi and drummer Jim Zimmerman returned to the room they were staying in that weekend at the attached Red Cottage Inn, to relax before the next set. In Zimmerman's words, 'He was walking across the room and just collapsed. That was it.' His cause of death has been variously described as a heart attack and/or an aortic aneurysm. Guaraldi had just finished recording the soundtrack for It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown earlier that afternoon."
  • Guaraldi had even had a check-up only a few weeks before. The doctor gave him an EKG and the results were good enough that the doctor didn't think he had any heart problems.  The doctor said that the stomach problems and tiredness he was experiencing were probably ulcers.

(Album cover and album itself from All Music)

"I don't think I'm a great piano player," Guaraldi once said, "but I would like to have people like me, to play pretty tunes and reach the audience. And I hope some of those tunes will become standards. I want to write standards, not just hits."
  • I think he got his wish, don't you? 

Derrick Bang, The Official Site of Vince Guaraldi, "A Few Words about Dr. Funk"
All Music, Vince Guaraldi Artist Biography
IMDb, Black Orpheus
Snoopy and the Gang! Vince Guaraldi
Coca-Cola, The Secret History of Charlie Brown's Christmas
Saber Point, Searching for Answers: the Death of Vince Guaraldi (Continually Updated)