Glögg &c.

Dec. 8 - December in Denmark, like December in the states, has a lot to do with Christmas. The nation hurls itself into a convulsive spasm of shopping, drinking, and consumption of foods drenched in sugar, fat, or both.

One of the foundations of the holiday season in Denmark—in all of Scandinavia, actually—is Glogg.

Glogg, as you may know, is a holiday punch made with ingredients that vary according to the temperament of the party making it, but that usually include wine, sugar, and spices. It's typically also loaded with raisins and almonds. In other words, it's a winter sangria.

They've been broadcasting a half-hour history of Glogg on one of the national TV stations for weeks now, and since I don't feel like doing any research today I'm just going to paraphrase the propaganda as it's been fed to me (in Danish, so I may have missed something).

First of all, there's the name. Glogg is the English word for what Swedes call Glögg, a word derived from the past tense of their verb for to mull. Not much excitement there, so let's get the hell out of etymology and jump into history.

The first known recipe for Glogg comes from the famous Greek physician Hippocrates, who developed a potion of wine and spices (such as honey, ginger, cardamon, and cinnamon) that he considered a health-enhancing tonic.

This from the man who most famously said, "First, do no harm."

His inspiration persisted through the middle ages, when the drink was known as Ypocras or Hipocris in his honor. It was still considered healthy, and it got you whopping drunk—what wasn't to like?

The drink's popularity took a dive in later centuries, as the spices required to prepare it became increasingly expensive (don't ask me why, I still haven't finished my Economics DVD). It gradually became a luxury item, especially in northern Europe, where the monied class enjoyed it all winter long and the moneyless classes shivered, starved, and died.

With the emergence of a middle-class in the middle 19th century, however, Glogg became affordable as a "splurge" item for many househoulds. It was still ungodly expensive, but not so exorbitant that you couldn't blow a chunk of change to serve some on special occassions.

Inevitably, it came to be a staple of Christmas parties.

As time went on and spices got cheaper, more and more people were able to serve it and it lost some of its cachet as a winter luxury. Instead, it got itself mixed up in the whole Christmas industry, and now the month of December in Scandinavia is unthinkable without the omnipresent Glogg.

Here's a good recipe for Glogg:

(1) Go to the store and buy a liter carton of Glogg. (2) Pour the Glogg it into a saucepan. (3) Warm it up. (4) Pour it into mugs. (5) Put raisins and almonds and stuff in the mugs. (6) Drink it.

(If you're more of a traditionalist, try this one.)

It's traditional to serve æbleskiver with Glogg. I'm not sure what they are. They're kind of like donut-holes, served right out of the oven, and they're served with a side of strawberry jam and powdered sugar. You rip off a chunk of the donut-hole, dab it in your jam, then plunk it down into the powdered sugar and eat it, washing it down with your Glogg.

So there.

* * *

On this date in 1626, Kristina Wasa was born to King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden and Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg.

The king was killed in battle in 1632, and Kristina was crowned while only six years old. As in all similar cases, this necessitated an Evil Regent Bastard to usurp, plot, and lay schemes until Kristina became an adult. On her eighteenth birthday she finally succeeded to the throne and overcame the Evil Regent Bastard.

Queen Kristina could speak and write six languages. She created the first Swedish newspaper. She studied with French philosopher Rene Descartes, prior to inadvertently killing him, and was instrumental in ending the Thirty Years' War.

She both studied and taught at various academies throughout Europe—even founding her own academy for literature and philosophy. She debated theology with the Pope, published letters promoting tolerance of Jews and Huguenots, helped instigate the opening of the first public opera house in Rome, and saved several puppies from a burning building. She was also trained and expert in all the military arts and sciences.

After abdicating the Swedish crown in 1654, she reportedly dressed as a man and rode a white charger on a lengthy tour of Europe. Later she sought to establish herself as a monarch first in Naples, and then in Poland.

Kristina Wasa never had sex with a horse, however, and is therefore uninteresting.

* * *

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot to death outside his home in Manhattan. He was killed by a young man operating on orders from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, a revolutionary book best known for its many passages inciting young men to kill people.

(See the excerpt from my own book right here, by selecting "Excerpts" then "The Catcher in the Rye.")

Happy Monday!

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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