Saturday, 23 December 2017

Pudding

The festive season is almost upon us once again, so it's quite fitting that this week's blog theme is  pudding! There will be a lot of it going down in flames on Christmas Day.

Many puddings that were originally conceived as seasonal dishes linked to the availability of their fruit (eve's pudding, summer pudding, even pumpkin pie), have become all-year-round favourites, but it is still unusual to find the traditional Christmas pudding served up at any other time than this one. My mum made our Christmas pudding for years at the beginning of December (until she discovered Waitrose). It was a family ritual in many households. An exotic check-list of ingredients would be measured out into a very large bowl. The smell was fantastic, almost intoxicating. Everyone would stir it once for luck before a charm (usually a silver sixpence) was dropped in and then the whole sticky mixture would be spooned into its pudding-cloth, tied up and steamed for hours - the original boil-in-the-bag confection. What emerged was a glossy cannonball that would mature for three weeks until Christmas Day when it would be  doused in brandy, decorated with a sprig of holly, set alight and then served with a little single cream (my personal preference) or brandy butter.

If you're up for a helping of facts about the ancestry of our modern Christmas pudding, they appear to be these: it began life shortly after the Crusades when exposure to middle-eastern ingredients and cuisine began to filter back to England. By the 14th century, frumenty (the true fore-runner of today's pudding) was quite a popular dish at Christmastide. It was more of a porridge than a pud, consisting of minced meat (beef or mutton) mixed with raisins, currants, spices and wine and would have been eaten like a thick soup. By the late 16th century suet had replaced minced meat and with the addition of dried figs and prunes, beer and spirits and stiffened by eggs and breadcrumbs, the Christmas pudding came to resemble the solid creation we know and love today. The figs and prunes gave rise to its alternative names of figgy pudding and plum pudding. Interestingly, the puritans banned it for its decadence during the interregnum but George I (nicknamed the pudding king) re-popularised it as a seasonal delight in the early 18th century and it has never looked back. The fact that it was steamed (not baked) meant that most households could fashion one, for not many ordinary houses possessed ovens in those days; and it was a once-a-year opportunity for ordinary folk to concoct something quite rich and luxurious as the centre-piece of their ritual Christmas feast.


Thinking back to Christmases past, as a child aged four, fair-haired and innocent like the 'Pudding Boy' pictured above, I was taken to see Father Christmas a couple of weeks before Christmas by my southern auntie and uncle. I sat on Santa's knee in the Christmas grotto of some Portsmouth department store and when he asked me what I'd like for Christmas, I was happy to tell him. He listened most attentively - as, I suspect, did my auntie and uncle. He probably gave me to understand that my hopes were not unrealistic.

A week later, when visiting my northern auntie and uncle in York as part of our winter furlough from West Africa, they too wanted to take me to see Father Christmas in a grotto in a department store. Once more I sat upon his knee, only when he asked me what I'd like for Christmas, apparently I grew most indignant and exclaimed "I've already told you!" Ouch. Ho ho ho.

I hope these before and after 'Pudding Boy' illustrations by R.P. Gossop (1876-1951) amuse you...


Gossop trained originally as a wallpaper designer but then branched out as a commercial graphic artist (working for WH Smith) and as a book illustrator. For a while he was art editor of Vogue in Britain, then helped co-found the Society of Industrial Artists and went on to serve on the council of the Design Association and to lecture at City of London college. 'Pudding Boy' has become the subject of a V&A Museum Christmas card this year and should act as an amusing reminder to us all to make merry but not over-indulge at the feast!

Today's poem, Reproof Of The Pudding, is a little sprig of seasonal jolly. I've been busy revising it over several days and versions, as is my usual poetic modus operandi, until it arrived at its final, perfect form. "Perfection", as defined by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (aviator, novelist, poet), "is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." A sound credo. Voila!

Reproof Of The Pudding

BURP!


Thanks for reading. I should like to wish a Merry 🎅 Christmas 🎄  to one and all, S ;-)
Reactions:

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Informative and entertaining as ever, Mr R. (We expect nothing less.) But as Crocodile Dundee might have said: "Call that a poem?" LOL. Merry Christmas to you too.

Lady Curt said...

Pity I didn't have time to write this week past...I might have told about " clootie " dumpling...a Scottish version traditionally served on Hogmanay...

Anonymous said...

What a great blog. I didn't know the Pudding had such an interesting lineage. Loved the illustrations too. As for the poem, what can I say? Audacious? Funny? Clever? Short? Apply all. Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Way to go!

MoonGoddess said...

A Confection of Perfection!!

Anonymous said...

These blogs are such a joy to read. Thank you🎄

Matt West said...

Ha ha - a poem you can recite from memory (LOL). Seriously buddy, a great seasonal blog. Happy New Year and all that.

Anonymous said...

Class!

Anonymous said...

I finally tucked into your Pudding blog. A fascinating piece. As for the one-word poem, I ticked 'poetic' as a reward for your chutzpah, lad.