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Vintage Recipes and Recollections

Oh!  All that steam!  The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron.  Oh!  That smell!  The same as the one which prevailed on washing day!  It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding.  Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner’s at the same time, with a laundry nest door.  Thirty seconds later, Mrs.  Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre.  Oh!  The marvelous pudding!”    

Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

I’m afraid that as a youth, less than flattering prose passages like this may have influenced my uncertainty about this historic Christmas dessert. Did I really want to eat something that resembles a cannon ball and may taste of the laundry?  Not likely!  Happily, once I grew up and actually gave it a chance, my mind was changed forever. I honestly can’t imagine a Cook family Christmas without this rich, dense and tasty dessert.

Christmas Pudding has a long history and is an important part of the festive meal for many families of British lineage. This recipe comes from my Grannie Cook’s family and emigrated with them when they left England and Scotland for life in Canada. I’m constantly astounded how recipes like this one resonate so strongly with my sense of family and history.  I’ve even noted lately that the recipe includes the traditional 13 ingredients which originally represented Christ and his disciples.  The pudding and it’s history are rife with lore and tradition.

My partner David and I recently returned from a holiday through the UK – London and Edinburgh this time – and were lucky enough to be there while the sights of Christmas began to appear. The incredible lights of Oxford and Regent Streets; the magnificent window displays of Harrods and Selfridges; and of course the smells and tastes of the season. It’s no wonder this recipe came to mind – it’s simply another reminder of how closely linked both David and I feel to the heritage of that special place.

Strangely, I’ve never made this recipe, nor did my Mom as I recall.  It was always left in the capable hands of the Cooks.  But I’m feeling inspired to include it at our table this year.  Not only as a tasty end to the meal, but as a way to ensure another tradition lives on.


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