Eudora Welty’s Handwritten Eggnog Recipe, and Charles Dickens’ Recipe for Holiday Punch

’Tis the season to break out the family recipes of beloved relatives, though often their provenance is not quite what we think.

(Imagine the cognitive dissonance upon discovering that Mother swiped “her” Italian Zucchini Crescent Pie from Pillsbury Bake-Off winner, Millicent Nathan of Boca Raton, Florida…)

When it came to crediting the eggnog she dubbed “the taste of Christmas Day," above, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty shared it out equally between her mother and author Charles Dickens:

In our house while I was growing up, I don't remember that hard liquor was served at all except on one day in the year. Early on Christmas morning, we woke up to the sound of the eggbeater: Mother in the kitchen was whipping up eggnog. All in our bathrobes, we began our Christmas before breakfast. Throughout the day Mother made batches afresh. All our callers expected her eggnog.

It was ladled from the punch bowl into punch cups and silver goblets, and had to be eaten with a spoon. It stood up in peaks. It was rich, creamy and strong. Mother gave full credit for the recipe to Charles Dickens.

Nice, but perhaps Dickens is undeserving of this honor? The contents of his punchbowl bore little resemblance to Mother Welty’s, as evidenced by an 1847 letter to his childhood friend, Amelia Filloneau, in which he shared a recipe he promised would make her “a beautiful Punchmaker in more senses than one”:

Peel into a very strong common basin (which may be broken, in case of accident, without damage to the owner’s peace or pocket) the rinds of three lemons, cut very thin, and with as little as possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit, attached. Add a double-handfull of lump sugar (good measure), a pint of good old rum, and a large wine-glass full of brandy — if it not be a large claret-glass, say two. Set this on fire, by filling a warm silver spoon with the spirit, lighting the contents at a wax taper, and pouring them gently in. Let it burn for three or four minutes at least, stirring it from time to Time. Then extinguish it by covering the basin with a tray, which will immediately put out the flame. Then squeeze in the juice of the three lemons, and add a quart of boiling water. Stir the whole well, cover it up for five minutes, and stir again.

This sounds very like the “seething bowls of punch” the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present shows Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, dimming the chamber with their delicious steam.

It’s also vegan, in contrast to what you might have been served in the Welty ladies’ home.

Why not serve both? In the words of Tiny Tim, "Here's to us all!"

Eudora Welty’s Mother’s Eggnog (Attributed, Perhaps Erroneously, to Charles Dickens)

6 egg yolks, well beaten

Add 3 tbsp. powdered sugar

Add 1 cup whiskey, added slowly, beating all the while

Fold in 1 pint whipped cream

Whip 6 whipped egg whites and add to the mixture above.

 

Charles Dickens’ Holiday Punch (adapted from Punch by David Wondrich)

3/4 cup sugar

3 lemons

2 cups rum

1 1/4 cups cognac

5 cups black tea (or hot water)

Garnish: lemon and orange wheels, freshly grated nutmeg

In the basin of an enameled cast-iron pot or heatproof bowl, add sugar and the peels of three lemons.

Rub lemons and sugar together to release citrus oils. For more greater infusion, let sit for 30 minutes.

Add rum and cognac to the sugar and citrus.

Light a match, and, using a heatproof spoon (stainless steel is best), pick up a spoonful of the spirit mix.

Carefully bring the match to the spoon to light.

Carefully bring the lit spoon to the spirits in the bowl.

Let the spirits burn for about three minutes. The fire will melt the sugar and extract the oil from the lemon peels.

Extinguish the bowl by covering it with a heatproof pan or tray.

Skim off the lemon peels (leaving them too long in may impart a bitter flavor).

Squeeze in the juice of the three peeled lemons, and add hot tea or water.

If serving the punch hot, skip to the next step. If serving cold, cool punch in the refrigerator and, when cooled, add ice.

Garnish with citrus wheels and grated nutmeg.

Ladle into individual glasses.

Learn more about these and other festive holiday drinks in Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay’s essay “Celebrating Christmas and New Year With Punch.”

Image above via Garden and Gun

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Why Coffee Naps Will Perk You Up More Than Either Coffee, or Naps, Alone

We've all had a cup of coffee after a nap. But maybe we've been doing it all wrong. Maybe we should put the cup of coffee before the nap. It sounds counterintuitive. But apparently the coffee nap--a cup of joe followed immediately by a quick nap--has some scientific merits and unexpected health benefits.

Over at Vox, they've summarized the findings of researchers at Loughborough University in the UK, who found that "when tired participants took a 15-minute coffee nap, they went on to commit fewer errors in a driving simulator than when they were given only coffee, or only took a nap."




Or "a Japanese study found that people who took a caffeine nap before taking a series of memory tests performed significantly better on them compared with people who solely took a nap, or took a nap and then washed their faces or had a bright light shone in their eyes."

The accompanying Vox video above explains how the coffee nap works its magic. The biology and chemistry all get discussed in a quick two-minute clip.

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George Orwell’s Rules for Making the Perfect Cup of Tea: A Short Animation

Several years back, Colin Marshall highlighted George Orwell's essay, "A Nice Cup of Tea," which first ran in the Evening Standard on January 12, 1946. In that article, Orwell weighed in on a subject the English take seriously--how to make the perfect cup of tea. And he proceeded to offer 11 rules for achieving that result. Above, Luís Sá condenses Orwell's suggestions into a short animation, made with kinetic typography. Below, you can read the first three of Orwell's 11 rules, and find the remaining eight here.

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it....
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot.... The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse....
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

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An Espresso Maker Made in Le Corbusier’s Brutalist Architectural Style: Raw Concrete on the Outside, High-End Parts on the Inside

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Brutalist architecture flourished in North America and Europe (both West and East) and many countries beyond. Made out of raw concrete, Brutalist buildings--usually municipal buildings, campuses, and housing projects--have an almost unfinished look to them. The first and most famous example of this architectural style is the Unité d'habitation, the housing complex built by Le Corbusier in Marseille between 1947 and 1952.

Though Brutalism has since fallen out of fashion, it might be poised for a comeback, especially if this new espresso machine is any indication. After a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer (raising $145k), the Norwegian-Californian design firm Montaag Products is putting the finishing touches on a brutalist espresso maker. They wanted to design a machine made out of "completely honest materials.” Hence the raw concrete. Inside the espresso maker, however, they've used materials typically found inside $1300 Italian machines, according to Food & Wine. You can pre-order the machine at Indiegogo for $799. It should be ready in March (or thereabouts).

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Visit Monte Testaccio, the Ancient Roman Hill Made of 50 Million Crushed Olive Oil Jugs

Image by patrimoni gencat, via Flickr Commons

It may be one of the more curious manmade garbage piles on our planet. Located in Rome, and dating back to 140 A.D., Monte Testaccio rises 150 feet high. It covers some 220,000 square feet. And it's made almost entirely of 53 million shattered amphorae--that is, Roman jugs used to transport olive oil during ancient times. How did the remnants of so many amphorae end up here? The web site Olive Oil Times offers this explanation:

Firstly, the site of the mound on the east bank of the Tiber is located near the Horrea Galbae – a huge complex of state controlled warehouses for the public grain supply as well as wine, food and building materials. As ships came from abroad bearing the olive oil supplies, the transport amphorae were decanted into smaller containers and the used vessels discarded nearby.

There’s a reason for this: Due to the clay utilized to make the amphorae not being lined with a glaze, after transportation of olive oil, the amphorae could not be re-used because the oil created a rancid odour within the fabric of the clay.

You might consider this Roman garbage dump an historical oddity. But as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. And according to Archaeology (a website of the Archaeological Institute of America) Monte Testaccio promises to reveal much about the inner-workings of the Roman economy. They write:

As the modern global economy depends on light sweet crude, so too the ancient Romans depended on oil—olive oil. And for more than 250 years, from at least the first century A.D., an enormous number of amphoras filled with olive oil came by ship from the Roman provinces into the city itself, where they were unloaded, emptied, and then taken to Monte Testaccio and thrown away. In the absence of written records or literature on the subject, studying these amphoras is the best way to answer some of the most vexing questions concerning the Roman economy—How did it operate? How much control did the emperor exert over it? Which sectors were supported by the state and which operated in a free market environment or in the private sector?

For historians, these are important questions, and they're precisely the questions being asked by University of Barcelona professor, José Remesa, who notes, “There’s no other place where you can study economic history, food production and distribution, and how the state controlled the transport of a product."

Above get a distant view of Monte Testaccio. Below get a close up view of the amphorae shards themselves.

Image by Alex, via Flickr Commons

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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1934 Map Resizes the World to Show Which Country Drinks the Most Tea

Not a day goes by that I don’t use Google Maps for something or other, whether it’s basic navigation, researching an address, or finding a dry cleaner. Though some of us might resent the dominance such mapping technology has over our daily interactions, there’s no denying its endless utility. But maps can be so much more than useful tools for getting around—they are works of art, thought experiments, imaginative flights of fancy, and data visualization tools, to name but a few of their overlapping functions. For the imperialists of previous ages, maps displayed a mastery of the world, whether cataloguing travel times from London to everywhere else on the globe, or—as in the example we have here—resizing countries according to how much tea their people drank.

But this is not a map we should look to for accuracy. Like many such cartographic data charts, it promotes a particular agenda. “George Orwell once wrote that tea was one of the mainstays of civilization,” notes Jack Goodman at Atlas Obscura. “Tea, asserted Orwell, has the power to make one feel braver, wiser, and more optimistic. The man spoke for a nation.” (And he spoke to a nation in a 1946 Evening Standard essay, “A Nice Cup of Tea.”) From the map above, titled “The Tea is Drunk” and published by Fortune Magazine in 1934, we learn, writes Goodman, that “Britain consumed 485,000 pounds of tea per year. That’s one hundred billion cups of tea, or around six cups a day for each person.” We might note however, that “the population of China was then nine times bigger than that of the U.K., and they drank roughly twice as much tea as the Brits did.” Why isn’t China at the center of the map? “The author made a tenuous point about the cultural differences between the two: the Chinese drank tea as a necessity, the British by choice.”

Cornell University library’s description of the map is more forthright: “While China actually consumed twice as much tea as Britain, its position at the edge of the map assured that the focus will be on the British Isles.” That focus is commercial in nature, meant to encourage and inform British tea merchants for whom tea was more than a beverage; it was one of the nation's pre-eminent commodities, though most of what was sold as a national product was Indian tea grown in India. Yet the map brims with pride in the British tea trade. “Thus may be told the geography and allegiance of Tea,” its author proclaims, “an empire within an empire, whose borders follow everywhere the scattered territories of that nation on which the sun never sets.” A little over a decade later, India won its independence, and the empire began to fall apart. But the British never lost their taste for or their national pride in tea. View and download a high-resolution scan of the "Tea is Drunk" map at the Cornell Library site.

via Atlas Obscura

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Expensive Wine Is for Dupes: Scientific Study Finds No Strong Correlation Between Quality & Price

If wine is on your Thanksgiving menu tomorrow, then keep this scientific finding in mind: According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Wine Economics, the quality of wine doesn't generally correlate with its price. At least not for most people. Written by researchers from Yale, UC Davis and the Stockholm School of Economics, the abstract for the study states:

Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a non-negative relationship between price and enjoyment. Our results are robust to the inclusion of individual fixed effects, and are not driven by outliers: when omitting the top and bottom deciles of the price distribution, our qualitative results are strengthened, and the statistical significance is improved further. These findings suggest that non-expert wine consumers should not anticipate greater enjoyment of the intrinsic qualities of a wine simply because it is expensive or is appreciated by experts.

You can read online the complete study, "Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better? Evidence from a Large Sample of Blind Tastings." But if you're looking for something that puts the science into more quotidien English and makes the larger case for keeping your hard-earned cash, watch the video from Vox above.

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