Wednesday, 5 December 2007

On Christmas pudding

The spicy fug that follows as the bowls arrive at the table maybe an hour after the big turkey and ham dinner, maybe more; the rich, warm fruity mass that is just this side of cloying; the light but faintly sweet evaporated milk that goes a gooey brown when you finally get to the end. At least it does at our Christmas table.

I’ve always loved Christmas pudding. Home made, out of a tin or, as more likely these days, out of the microwaveable plastic container it comes in. Doesn’t matter to me. I love it all and look forward to it every year. I’ll even bring a pud back from Christmas visits to Australia to keep in the freezer until the following December. That’s a lot of freezer real estate for a foodie to tie up for a year!

It was only a few years ago, when a dear English friend quizzed me on the evaporated milk bit, that I realized that this is not the way the rest of the world enjoys its Chrissie pudding. Others have hard sauce or custard, or even ice-cream. The sacrilege!

It’s more than a little uncomfortable when someone points out that what you have thought of all your life as being “traditional” turns out not to be! So how did the eva milk tradition begin? We have Saffron-mama to thank for that, it seems. It was a way to lighten up the calories, apparently. Enlightenment, I say! So from the evaporated milk hog, thanks Mum; I wouldn’t do it any other way.

As for the saffron and lemons connection, the commingling of fruit and spice screams out a tie with Persian cuisine. That goes doubly for mincemeat, which in old times did include meat. The Iranians, of course, being masters of the meat-fruit-and-spice concoction. Come this Christmas, perhaps our Iranian guest might be able offer some additional enlightenment...

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