I'm worried about the pudding. Christmas pudding to be exact. I fear for its survival. I've just been on one of the many Christmas dinner nights out that pepper my social calendar at this time of year and not one single person chose Christmas pudding as dessert! Chocolate mousse was popular, so was the Raspberry Baked Alaska and anything with salted caramel in it suddenly seems to have people ooohing and ahhing all over the place but Christmas pudding with brandy sauce is left on the sidelines, like the geek at the school dance.
Christmas puddings have a ridiculously long history, much longer than chocolate puddings which only really showed up in the 1700s when Kings decided it was a health drink. The Christmas pudding, as we know it, probably came from a thick pottage or stew which you kept boiling all day over the fire and eventually put breadcrumbs and egg in to thicken it right up to serve. We used dried fruit to add sweetness at a time when actual sugar was so expensive only royalty could really afford it. It was a way of showing off. 'Look at my plum pudding, it's got prunes in it AND currants, well I do live in Stoneygate you know!'
We gradually lost the meat and vegetables but kept the fruit, the breadcrumbs, the eggs and spices. As people moving into towns and cities just had rooms in the brave new urban world we tied the pudding up in a cloth and took it to the laundry to be boiled! It was solid, sweet, treat food that would fill empty bellies and a little would go a long way. It was also stupidly easy to do.
Alas, now we don't need those qualities in a dessert. Now we want flavour and texture. We want our desserts to leap off the plate and snog us. We want something we can take out of the freezer, unbox and present as if we'd spent hours on it. As someone who did spend minutes making a Christmas pudding I want people to choose it, not dodge it for a shop bought chocolate gateaux, and I want to know that it helped induce a four hour food coma that safely gets us through to the buffet tea at 7pm.
Christmas pudding has been abused by manufacturers who used cheap, crappy ingredients. It's terrified people as the blue brandy flames lick round the holly sprig and it wears people out because it takes so long to steam.
So let me plead for the Christmas pudding. A
slice of good, homemade pud, microwaved if necessary, still sizzling from the
flames and anointed with brandy sauce is a thing of wonder... And next morning
you can fry what's left with bacon.