Eight Questions You Have Every Right To Ask About Eggnog

There are two nogs in this picture, see if you can find them.

[Every day this week, FiTR will be offering posts about eggnog, the quintessence of Christmas as a food holiday. There will be recipes and reminiscences, and the occasional cautionary tale. This is the first installment.]

1. What's a "nog" anyway?

"Nog" is one of those Germanic words lost in the fog, attributed to Anglo-Saxon by Webster's, but sounding a little more Scandinavian, say, Old Norse. In fact, it's easy to imagine Leif Erickson and his merry band drinking a warm batch of eggnog made with sheep's milk before hopping on the boat to discover America.

"Nog," in its most archaic usage, refers to a block of wood put in a brick wall, so that nails may be driven into it. Never heard anyone use it that way, though.

More commonly, a nog is a beverage containing milk, cream, sugar, eggs, or some combination thereof. In that regard, it somewhat resembles a Brooklyn egg cream - though the egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream, of course.

In England, a nog was once a very foamy dark ale with cream-colored bubbles. Indeed our own more-modern usage of "nog" may refer to the color of the beer-nog's foam and its similarity to the yellowish hue of the best eggnogs and other egg-bearing milk-nogs. But this is something of a stretch, as far as FiTR is concerned. (Either way, it would be good if some local beer outfit like Sixpoint, Brooklyn Brewery, or Kelso would make an old-fashioned beer-nog so we could see for sure.)

2. Does eggnog have anything to do with your noggin?

Well, maybe. A noggin, besides being ancient slang for your head, is also a carved squat cup, often with a handle something like a ladle, circa 1600. At one time, a nog may have been any beverage poured into a noggin. Additionally, a head may have been called a noggin because the shape of the human cranium resembles that of the vessel called noggin. Confused? We are.

Use your noggin!

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