The thing about Christmas pudding is that it is a very British tradition.
I used to help my mother when it came time to prepare. We used to go out on a special expedition to buy the dried fruits. We’d bring all the stuff home and I’d help her make the mix, pour in the ingredients and cover the big pudding basin with muslin. Oh yes, I know all about it, I was there. Best of all of course was being able to help with the clean up, and by clean up I mean eat. I’d lick the wooden spoon until my tongue bled and use a spatula to get every tiny bit of the mix—raw egg, sugar and flour coated dried fruit—off the walls of the mixing bowl.
It’s a miracle I made it to 9 years old without rampant salmonella poisoning.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The ritual began with buying the ingredients. And shopping for pud ingredients was a blast. I’d pester my mother all the way around into promising she’d let me help her in the making—a desire motivated by nothing more than pure gluttony. Of course, being a small boy at the time, I would quite often have to use the conveniences in whatever shop we’d gone in to for pudding purchases. I can vividly remember the helpless look on my mother’s face when, in the leg crossing queue for the loo, I kept loudly demanding that I be allowed to lick the bowl.
How about a urinal cake as a desert, eh darling?
She didn’t ever say that, but wouldn’t it have been brilliant if she had.
But even more of a tradition in our house was one of throwing the odd coin into the pudding mix. Sixpenses and thrupenny bits were the norm. The thrupenny was a brass coin that first appeared in the mid sixteenth century. This was, of course all before decimalisation, which tells you a lot bout how old I am. But that is what we used to do. Throw a silver sixpense or two and a few thrupenny bits into the mix and then steam the pudding. The idea being that on Christmas day, if luck was with you, you’d get an extra bonus of three or six pence. Nothing more heart-warming that seeing aunty Wilma’s face light up with joy on finding the prize with a lucky chew, only to be followed instantly by despondent horror as her fillings were smashed to pieces in the process.
But I was too young to have fillings. Now, figures for the total number of bacteria on any given coin vary from none to 40,000. So why not incubate those little beauties by heating them up in a nice steamy environment—aka cooking the pudding? All I know is that when I bit in and hit the jackpot. it tasted so horrible that I had to run up the garden path and spatter my recently devoured turkey with all the trimmings on the vegetable patch in a heaving mess.
Ashes to ashes, sprouts to sprouts.
So, with summer over, it’s all downhill towards Christmas.
But when we get there, I’ll pass on the pudding, thank you very much. I’m strictly a mince pie man these days.