I seem to have a lot of food items on my list. I’m not sure why that is. I do love food, and the fking chemo has affected my tastebuds quite significantly – so that I anticipate something will taste a certain way and then it just…doesn’t. Bitter is cranked up to the max, lots of things taste weird. Leeks and spring onions are postively unpleasant. There’s an undercurrent of soap. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking about food a lot.
So. Christmas pudding. This comes with layers and layers of associations, because Christmas pudding IS Christmas.
First, my Mum’s Christmas puddings. She made them and kept them. I want to say she made them three at a time, and then we had them for three years running, but how could I know that? Served with brandy butter. Leftovers fried up on Boxing Day. Dark and delicious.
The big Christmas pudding of my childhood, though, was Auntie Nellie’s Christmas pudding. My granny was a cook. A proper cook – she worked for Johnson and Johnson, and she cooked for the directors’ canteen. I suspect it was just very good quality home cooking – nothing fancy. Granny made the best pastry, her meat and potato pie was incredible, her almond slice, her mince pies! But I remember her at Brooklands in Barnsley, complimenting the waiter on the blandness of the pate. She rejected a salad garnish as if it was poison. Vegetables were not really her forte.
Anyhow, Granny was a generous feeder, lavish with cheese and cream and meat. Nellie was her step-sister, and they were very close. Granny had been handing ingredients for the Pudding over to Nellie for months – fat raisins, plump sultanas (I’m wondering now if she got them cheap from work?). She told us all how wonderful the Pudding was going to be. Nellie had told her, got her all full of anticipation – and she passed that on to the rest of us.
The Pudding was basically pudding. A sponge dotted with dried fruit. A Christmas pudding should be a bowl shaped lump of dried fruit cemented together with a pudding-like substance. Not this sad, steamed sponge.
My Grandad was the mildest, sweetest man you could meet. He expressed his disgust. Nobody was expecting that.
My mother-in-law, Colette, probably made the best Christmas pudding of anyone. It was just magnificent. It’s a good thing it was amazing, because on Stephen’s Day (yes, we’re in Ireland now), when everybody else in Christendom is going “yay, leftovers!”, she would get up and cook a second full Christmas dinner. Yes. Turkey. Ham. Roasties. Christmas pudding. Hers was served with lightly whipped, lightly sweetened cream. There were seven children in the family, so Christmases in Dublin were busy. The doors between the sitting room and the dining room were opened, we’d be crowded along the kitchen table, the dining table, and probably a card table, with Colette trying to clear the plates at one end of the table before the other end had finished being served.
My husband makes the puddings now – to his Mum’s recipe. He used to faithfully keep up his mother’s tradition of telling us the pudding isn’t as good as last year’s. I think we’ve cured him of that. In a merging of traditions, we serve it with cream AND brandy butter. The recipe makes three – a large, a medium and a small pudding – like the three bears. There was one year when we kept one for the following Christmas, took the greaseproof paper off to check it and found it had turned to dust, like a vampire exposed to sunlight. We’ve never really kept one since. We usually eat a second in January, and then just randomly decide that the weather is miserable, and we deserve a Christmas pudding, or that friends are coming over and it’s a good excuse for it.
I have Colette’s recipe written out by her in my recipe folder. I’ve written out the recipe myself in two different notebooks. We are not losing that recipe.
Food and families…(K)
How lovely to read this Sarah and you’ve triggered a memory for me. Last Christmas was my first time making a Christmas cake to my mother’s recipe. As the kitchen filled with the smells of the cake baking, it brought her vividly back to life for me. I am really enjoying these posts – particularly the food ones x
Thank you! Sorry, bad weekend after chemo, starting to come alive again now.