Thursday, October 19, 2006

Friday the 13th...

plum pudding fruit

My maternal grandmother intrigues me in so many ways, for instance she is the most superstitious person I know. My cousin had the misfortune of being born on the 13th of October, an innocent date to those not plagued by superstition, for all those otherwise it means birthdays that fall on Fridays carry with them an element of wariness and unease, the last time my cousin’s birthday fell on a Friday my grandmother phoned her to suggest she stay in doors for the day and to take care with any mirrors she may near.

Another interesting characteristic of my grandmother is that she does not like to cook, it is as simple as that, she eats very little and most astonishingly does not and never has possessed a sweet tooth. This intrigues me the most about her because fate would have it that her two daughters and two granddaughters love their food immensely and are extremely passionate home cooks.

Every Monday my grandmother has a particular friend over for lunch, never more than the humble sandwich is served and every week this dear friend brings along a cake or slice for them to have afterwards. My grandmother, being the eternally polite lady that she is has never had the heart to tell her friend that she can’t stand cakes or sweet things and so staunchly consumes these sugary parcels with the bravery of one undergoing a tetanus shot….and although she eats a piece of fruit every day, it is purely for health benefits and little to do with sweetness……her life is otherwise sans sugar…

Have you ever had a coffee made by someone who does not drink the stuff themselves?
It will always lack that certain magic.
Have you ever eaten meat cooked by a vegetarian?
Two words….
Boot leather.
Such patterns would lead to the theory…..’that which is not consumed by its maker should be avoided’…..
However like all good theories and rules there are and always will be exceptions, it’s what makes the universe special and exciting…

My dear grandmother makes the best plum pudding I have ever tasted, and I do mean the best, even the most detailed written description could not do it justice. I’m a firm believer that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps only those that already are fond of plum pudding will understand my passionate praise, after all those that dislike dried fruit are not often easily swayed……..however even ‘The German’, one such avoider of all things raisiny and figgy enjoys his piece of this pudding.

Since I was a small child I have literally divided my year into two parts….December to May, May to December. Every November my grandmother makes two plum puddings, one for the 25th of December and the other is carefully protected until Mothers Day in May when we gather as an entire family once again. I don’t know why the tradition started that the second one would be eaten on Mothers Day, I must ask her, seeing as there are 4 family members birthdays between December and May where it could so easily be gobbled up on….I think it may have more to do with the neutrality of Mothers Day, as my grandmother is a strong believer in fairness and equality…and to have it on someone’s birthday would be seen as favouritism in her eyes and as a loving grandmother there can be none of that….
For some of our recent Christmas lunches, at least one of our family members has been overseas, sad you may say, only sad for them I say, all the more pudding for me!!! Except unfortunatley, on those occasions when our numbers drop to 13, where by we are required at my grandmother's request to invite one more person, no matter who they may be in order to avoid the potential collapse of Christmas luck and happiness by numbering 13.......this year just so happens to be one of those once again the pudding will need to be sliced accordingly to accomodate all......but it won't stop me from hovering over my grandmother while she serves it up, trying ever so slightly to influence a larger piece for myself....

Although as much as I love devouring the first pudding for all that it represents for my family at Christmas time the second one has had longer to meld and our bellies are usually less full on the May occasion allowing the flavour to be more fondly appreciated….oh May, I need May, I couldn’t survive 12 long months without it….my addiction goes so far that in late October to early November when the fruit is soaking in brandy awaiting its fate, I have been known to drive to my grandmothers house to beg her to pluck the tub of fruit from its drunken slumber and allow me to take one long sniff……come March there I am again begging for a sensory fix…..however even I know once cooked and sealed up opening the prized package could risk spoilage so I refrain.
Like any addict, the time was gradually encroaching where my doses would need to be upped.
I had never asked my grandmother for the recipe…..firstly, that would be as doomed as showing a smoker how to grow their own tobacco…..secondly, I feared the possibility of an overdose…...such a disaster would render Christmas fruitless for me….pardon the pun….and thirdly as the recipe was given to my grandmother by her older sister who was given it from her mother in law I felt it was something I must simply wait to be handed….hoping my enthusiasm would one day prove worthy…

About this time last year my grandmother wrote out my very own copy of the recipe… can imagine my joy at finally being able to re-create my own piece of plum pudding pleasure.
Last year I made my first ever plum pudding, well two puddings in fact as the recipe makes two. One was eaten at the Xmas lunch my friends and I have each year and the other was kept with enormous willpower until my birthday in March. So now my year can be broken down into three delightful parts, December to March, March to May and May to December. I have successfully resisted breaking the dry spell between May and December…..I just convince myself I am content with four serves a year…..for now anyway…..
That’s not to say plum pudding isn’t ever far from my mind, on Friday, seeing a one kilo bag of sultanas on special was enough to prod the pudding receptors in my brain……so without planning to I returned home with all the fruit and brandy I needed to start this year’s process…...since the recipe my grandmother gave me is framed and hangs proudly on my kitchen wall I have the ingredients committed to memory, allowing such spontaneous purchases for pudding items possible.

plum pudding fruit 2

So really the May to December period can be broken down into sub-parts taking into account the tantalizing top up of my taste buds from preparing the fruit in October and then mixing it with the remaining ingredients and boiling them in November.

plum pudding fruit 3


So on Friday after hovering over my tub of fruit gloriously soaking in the delicious brandy and smelling the magnificent aromas I sealed it up and stored it away with the hope that I may forget its whereabouts for the following four weeks, to avoid me opening it every second day for a sniff. There I was, in a state of bliss……until I went to mark day 1 of the pudding process on my kitchen calendar......there is was staring back at me…..the date…Friday the 13th….eek…I gasped…what had I done…..soaking the fruit on such a day…deep breath…...mmmm not only have I inherited my grandmothers recipe but her superstitions seem to have hitched a ride over to my house with it ……

…to be continued… 3 weeks time…..when I open the fruit up with all my fingers and toes crossed…hoping this year’s pudding won’t be plagued by some wretched superstitious curse……..


Blogger Evnike said...

yum. baba's plum pudding! am looking forward to it at Christmas lunch! :)

10:54 am  
Anonymous Joe-y said...

and i am wondering if you need your 13th person to actually be present or just to drop in for a dose of pudding!! mmmmmmmmmm...drooling

6:04 pm  
Anonymous Y said...

Will you eventually be posting the recipe for this magical sounding pudding? :)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful family tradition you have. Such traditions can keep families united. It is a shame that a pudding gives pleasure to so few yet could give pleasure to so many if it were shared. That is the sadness of keeping family recipes secret within families. They have the potential to die especially if future generations do no have the passion for cooking

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