With those five little words, I knew the fate of this year's Christmas pudding was set.
You see, up until a few years ago, Christmas pudding was just that: Christmas Pudding. Each year Mummy would buy a red celloed plum pudding from the megamart. She'd steam it, sprinkle some cognac over it and then serve it with an equally boozy saucy icing. It was a tradition she picked up while in the Indian army, while getting her nurse's training.
Still heavily rooted in British tradition, a big fuss was made when it was announced the army cooks started making the holiday puddings. At Christmas the fruited cakes would appear in the mess, soused in alcohol and set ablaze. When she went to get her serving, the staff always gave her a little more than the others. It was their way of telling her they liked her and although she was a long way from home, she was still loved. My mum's eyes still light up when she talks about it.
Last year, as had become the norm, I made a sticky toffee pudding. Sometimes it was chocolate, sometimes it was vanilla. Mum always enjoyed it--it is sweet and luscious, and since I made it, she didn't have to fuss over it; but no matter how tasty it was, there was always a note of melancholy in her voice. When it was time to serve the pudding, not only did the sticky toffee bonanza appear, but a little plum pudding was also served.
I looked at Mummy.
Sheepishly, she looked down and in the tiniest of voices she said,"But I missed the pudding," and proceded to spoon some of each pudding into her bowl.
Gosh, I felt awful. I didn't realise the boozy little cannonball meant that much to her...she never articulated its significance to me until very recently.
With my, and this year's Christmas pudding's, fate set in stone, I searched for a proper, lidded pudding steamer. I suppose it's a very British thing to have--perhaps 20 or 30 years ago we could have gotten one at Eaton's...but not today. I decided sometime last spring that if I couldn't find one by the end of September, I'd have order one in from the UK and hope customs wouldn't hold it up, nor would the Posties nick it...luckily I found one on one of my theatre trips to Stratford.
When Mummy saw it she was so happy. Normally she accuses me of wasting my paycheques on frivolous things, as mums are apt to do. Not this time. This was an important piece of kitchenware long missing from either of our treasure troves of bizarre, obscure, but still very useful kitchen gadgets.
A month ago she announced that she'd like to make at least two puddings. One for Christmas and one to give away.
That meant I'd need to find another steamer...and I couldn't get to Stratford. As luck would have it, my favourite bulk food store, the one with the black-humoured sales girl, had just brought in some steamers. I plucked one from the shelf (okay--it was WAY up high--at least six feet off the floor--and I had to stand on tippy toes to get it) and bought it.
Ready for the lecture on frivolous items (one steamer would be acceptable, but two was just too decadent and shouldn't I be using my money for something better, like my old age?) I set it in her kitchen. No lecture.
"Oh good. You found one. I was wondering how we'd do the second pudding."
Was this MY mum speaking? I can only assume that the prospect of a home-made Christmas pudding was clouding her fuzzy little brain.
She asked if I had a recipe as neither of us had ever made a plum pudding from scratch before. I have loads of recipes...given that a good 40 per cent of my cookbooks are from the UK, I knew I'd have several from which to choose. None of them seemed quite right. At least, not right enough for a first pudding. I searched the Web and found Nigel Slater's recipe.
Did we follow the recipe exactly? No. I substituted this for that and that for this. I made up my own self-rising flour which probably wasn't as potent as the stuff in the store. Mummy, oh she-who-dislikes-all-things-animal-fatty, was incredibly unhappy that I insisted in using suet and claims if she knew that suet was used in puddings she'd never have eaten them.
She buttered the bowls while I mixed all the ingredients together. I must admit that I've mentally appended "Christmas puddings" to Otto von Bismarck's quotation pertaining to sausages and laws. Did we do the navigational stirring as is tradition? No. My inability to find North, even with a compass, is my excuse.
Mummy was hopefully convinced that there would be too much pudding for basin and we'd need to make a third, smaller pudding. Her face fell when she realized that Mr. Slater was a man true to his word and the mixture really did fill two 1.5 litre containers.
We tied and steamed the puddings. Afterwards she set them on the counter to cool.
"Can we eat one now?" she asked hopefully.
"Because we need to steam them again before serving."
"Okay. If I steam them longer can we have one?"
"You do know why we made the puddings this year as opposed to buying them, don't you?" (with Mummy's memory, one is never quite sure).
Her eyes fell. "Yes. I remember."
"Well that's why we have to wait until Christmas."
"Okay," she responded, dejectedly. "I've made a decision."
"I'm not going to give away a pudding."
"Because." A perfect Mummy reason if there ever was one.
After they cooled I sealed them up as Nigel instructed and Mummy took them away.
"You will remember where you've put them, won't you?"
"Of course I will, " she said with a glint in her eye. "This is the Christmas pudding."
tags: Christmas Pudding Nigel Slater Stir Up Sunday
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