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Published: Wednesday, 12/21/2005

To our holiday health

GOD rest, ye merry gentle folk, don't fret about eggnog.

Our hearts are warmed for the holidays by knowledge that the Ohio Department of Agriculture has finally - after some 24 years - aligned its official formulation of this traditional Christmas libation with dairy standards specified by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

So here's the question: Does bureaucratic synergy with the FDA mean we can throw caution to the winter wind, ignore the heart-attack-inducing cholesterol that eggnog sports, and drink all we want "for medicinal purposes?"

Why not? Everyone knows instinctively that calories consumed in the spirit of the holidays don't "count."

Anyway, the standards say nothing about the jolts of whiskey, brandy, rum, or sherry that most revelers add for a little extra cheer. One or more of those ingredients should absorb most of the fat thingies and render them harmless, shouldn't it?

It had better, because the FDA specifications for eggnog are plenty rich: at least 6 percent butterfat, 1 percent egg yolks, and 8 1/4 percent milk solids. Ohio's old dairy marketing rules allowed what state officials conceded was a rather watered-down variation known as "eggnog drink."

Those who prefer to make their own undoubtedly will find an even richer recipe, one that calls for large eggs, sugar, brandy, rum, milk, cream, and icing sugar, with nutmeg sprinkled on top. Not to mention those other non-dairy additives.

Some might call eggnog a heart attack in a festive cup, but we prefer to think of it as health food for the holidays.

So, with all worry aside, arteries cleared for action, and apologies to the ancient tune, we sing:

"God rest, ye merry gentlefolk, let nothing you dismay. Don't worry that your diet's shot, at least for Christmas Day."

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