I enjoyed the first glass of eggnog of the season tonight while I read the NY Times food section (that's been sitting around since Wednesday) and the Lorrie Moore story I mentioned last night (anyone care to venture a guess as to why she's got a character named Daniel Handler?).
Eggnog is one of those things that I suddenly crave come the beginning of November and immediately like a whole lot less as soon as Thanksgiving is past. Turkey is another. Stuffing to a lesser extent (because I always like stuffing). Pumpkin pie. Though I don't know that I--or anyone I know--has ever craved pumpkin pie. I don't know whether I'd drink eggnog if we could buy it in July--and heaven knows I don't roast turkeys or bake pumpkin pies at any other time of the year--but when I see the first batch of eggnog in the store, I just have to have some right away. And the very thought of a turkey sandwich on fresh bread, slathered with mayonnaise, thick with tomatoes and pickles and lettuce, is making my mouth water as I type.
Then it's over. Not because I overdo it, gorging myself on so much turkey and eggnog that I just can't bear the thought of facing another plateful/glassful ever again. In large part my reaction has more to do with a sense of something wonderful on its way. My tastebuds are doing the anticipating.
Growing up, we didn't celebrate either Halloween or Christmas, but we went all out for the holiday that comes in between. Thanksgiving feels more special to me, more important, more sacred in its own way, than any other holiday. Sure, Thanksgiving is about food. Good food. It's also the time when we gather around a meal not just for our daily sustenance, but to acknowledge that the gathering itself is worthy of celebration. For me, the taste of eggnog (cut by about a third with milk) is the rich and mysterious--how is it that I am so blessed?--and deeply satisfying taste of the many things I have to be thankful for: a roof over my head, a car I love to drive, the love of my parents, my husband's laugh, my children's good health.