Friday, January 28th, 2022

Shopper Client Stories


VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS

by Rob Lauer



"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...
The children were nestled, all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced through their heads."




Centuries before Clement Moore penned those words in his immortal 1823 poem, sugar and sweets were a part of Christmas. They still are, thus the five pounds gained by the average American each year this time. Confections such as candy canes, sugar cookies, gingerbread, fruitcake, hot chocolate, eggnog, and sugar plums have historical connections to Christmas.

Legend dates candy canes to 1670 when a German choirmaster in Cologne was having issues with the unruly children playing shepherds in his church's live nativity scene. His solution? Give the kids sugar sticks bent to look like shepherd's crooks.

Sugar cookies-initially called Nazareth cookies-were first baked in the mid-1700s by German settlers in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Easy to make and top with distinctive Christmas decorations, they were soon a part of the holiday.

Gingerbread dates back to Medieval England, where ginger was used medicinally to calm the stomach. Gingerbread was believed to ease the pain of holiday overeating.

Queen Elizabeth I is often credited with creating gingerbread men. As one story goes, wanting to intimidate a host of male politicians, she had gingerbread cookies made in their images and then, in their presence at a royal Christmas dinner, bit the head off of each. (Merry Christmas, Fellas-Love, Liz)
 
Fruit cake-adored by some, despised by many-dates back to ancient Rome, where a dough made of flour, nuts, fruit, and honey was used as a sort of PowerBar to feed the troops. In Medieval Britain, the dough was rolled into balls and boiled, resulting in "Figgy" or "Plum" pudding. British colonists in America baked the dough as cakes. By the late 1800s, Americans were soaking the cakes in liquor as a preservative and storing them in tins.

Because cocoa is native to the New World, hot chocolate has American roots. As early as 500 BC, the Mayans were drinking chocolate made from ground cocoa seeds mixed with water, cornmeal, and chili peppers-very different from what we drink today. In the 1500s, the explorer Cortez brought the drink to Spain, where it was served without peppers, hot and sweetened. When hot chocolate hit London in the 1700s, the English substituted milk for water for a creamier beverage.
The earliest eggnog  (made of raw eggs and figs-yuck!) was first enjoyed by 13th-century British monks-if "enjoyed" is the right word. Later, Elizabethans made their own version with spices, milk, eggs, and wine. British colonists brought the drink to America, replacing the wine with whiskey, rum, cognac, brandy, and any available liquor. Needless to say, the American version became the most popular.

As for a sugar plum-it is nothing more than a piece of run-of-the-mill hard candy, so named not for its flavor but for its round or oval plum-like shape.