Christmas Pudding – I didn’t want to, but I had to.
Christmas in our house was not complete without Christmas pudding.
For those of you who are not familiar with this culinary tradition, it’s basically a mixed dried fruit, dried fruit peel and fruit zest – cake. Said cake/pudding that will sit in your stomach for days – it’s dome shaped, and is supposed to be made weeks in advance of the big day to mature… polite folks don’t talk about what it might be like should it not be allowed to mature. Christmas pudding does have some redeeming factors for those who like brandy.
As our Christmas dinner was ending and the desserts were served, the brandy was heated to molten degrees, set on fire and then poured over the Christmas pudding. This ritual always came with whispers of how much had so and so had to drink and should they be holding boiling flammable liquid in one hand and a flame in the other. I’m not sure why we laughed, but anxious giggles come from every corner.
Flaming brandy was just the start of taste dulling exercise - the next step was to cover your portion of said pudding with brandy butter. A whipped up butter and brandy mixture my sister would make, as she got older the less butter and more brandy she used. I didn’t like any of it, but I took some – I had to, it was the only way to get the coin.
You see, legend tells of good luck to all who find a silver coin in the Christmas pudding. So, during my younger years my mother would put in a number of silver coins for my brothers and sisters and I (I, incidentally, was the youngest) to find – a sort of reward for eating the pudding that would stay with you a lot longer than the coin.
Anyway, as I got a little older, when offered the pudding, I would initially decline. Then a few moments later my brother, always my older brother first, would declare – “I’ve got a pound coin in here!” He would look directly at me and say “Sure you don’t want some – bet there’s more in it” Moments after that my other brother would laugh and start picking out his pound coin – “You should have some” they would say.
Crushed by peer pressure and the hunt for the ever elusive coins I would reluctantly ask for some pudding – as soon as the dish hit the table in front of me I would spoon through every inch of that dried fruit brandy drenched situation only to find a coin free, dried fruit brandy drenched situation, which, regrettably, I now had to eat.
I changed my strategy a couple of times and asked for the first piece of pudding – only to find my piece was just to the left or right of where the coin was as they would again spoon our their trophies and encourage me to have more… More. Are. You. Crazy.
It struck me, as the years went on, that it didn’t matter if I took the first piece, the last piece, the slice to the left or right of my brothers slice, I simply was confounded by the coins. There was another thing that was hard to grasp too. How was it I never saw a coin in the pudding when my brothers were getting their slices, and I never heard the chink of metal coin on metal knife as my mother dished out their portions?
And then it happened.
This particular Christmas we had additional family members with us and a couple of the children were younger than I was. As the Christmas lunch finished up and we all watched in terror as a little too much brandy exploded in flames over the Christmas pudding I felt someone’s hand in mine – I looked up, my brother was trying to sneak a one pound coin into my hand – “It’s for the pudding mate” he whispered with a wink.