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Song for a Winter’s Night

By December 11, 2017No Comments

eggnog with whipped cream islands

I’m writing in a happy, foggy trance. Sarah McLachlan is covering Song for a Winter’s Night, Gordon Lightfoot’s gorgeous lullaby that I play this time of year, always. 

I play certain songs, again and again, because I crave the FEELING I get when listening. This particular song lulls me. 

The same goes with movies. When I’m in this lulling mode, Pride and Prejudice comes out, again. 

Then my husband walks in the room and says, this, again? 

I start laughing, and poof, the moment is gone. 

The answer is sustained lulling is to work when you’re all alone at home. Let the music fill the room and wrap around us. The same feeling doesn’t happen when listening through ear buds, with someone near you loading the dishwasher, I’ve learned. There’s no soothing. No privacy. 

I first started wrapping myself in music when I was a nanny in Montreal after university. After I dropped the kids at school I would fold laundry or putter in the kitchen, always to a CD from the rack near the kitchen. That’s when I discovered The McGarrigles and Kate Bush. Strong women with unique voices. 

They kept me company, along with Sheila Rodgers and Peter Gzowski on CBC radio. I didn’t realize that one day I’d build stories from moments like these. 

So here I am, Sarah McLachlan on repeat, making eggnog from Mom’s Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK. She’s had it since the 1970; it’s splattered and loved, and full of treasures. 

I have a few lactose intolerant guys in the house, so I’m attempting it with lactose-free milk. I’ve had to up the yolks for it to thicken properly. I’ve swapped maple syrup for white sugar in the custard. 

But the feeling as I make it is the same. 

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book Image

Better Homes and Gardens Eggnog, more or less

3 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup maple syrup

4 cups milk – I’ve used lactose-free 

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla, brandy or rum essence – or real rum

1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped

ground nutmeg

Combine yolks in a large saucepan with salt and maple syrup and whisk until smooth. Add milk and whisk well over medium heat. Once everything is bubbly and smooth, switch to a wooden spoon and stir until mixture coats the back of the spoon. This is a slow, meditative process. Play your favourite music. Embrace it. ‘Coating the back of the spoon’ is when the mixture (it’s more of a custard at this stage) coats the spoon when you run a finger along the wood, marking a clear path as you go. My custard coated the spoon, but it was still a little translucent. I blame that on the lactose-free milk. It was good enough for me. 

Set the pan aside to cool. 

Whisk egg whites until foamy. Slowly add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks are formed. Whisk whites into cooled custard. Add vanilla, or rum. Chill for a few hours. 

When ready to serve, pour eggnog into a punch bowl. I’m using my mother in law’s. Clearly I need one. She bought hers at Consumer’s Distributing, that odd Canadian store that used a catalog model: you looked through the catalogue, made your selection, then drove to the store which consisted of a counter, a few employees and a massive warehouse of goods in behind. Kind of an in-person, pre-internet Amazon. It closed a while ago.

I digress. The NEW COOK BOOK says to ‘dot the eggnog with islands of whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg’. I love this part the best. The lactose-free boys can dodge them. 

eggnog close up with whipped cream islands

Serves 6-8.