History and Family Traditions

November 25, 2010

I am a bona fide history buff. I just can’t get enough. Immersing myself in old tales and period movies as a child left me fascinated with the past and fuelled my curiosity for what life was like in another time. I longed to join Jo in Concord, and knew nearly all the lines from the 1994 film version of Little Women by heart (I have two 1940’s copies of the book, and I’m still searching for earlier editions). When I was younger, if anyone asked me what time I would like to be transported back to I would wholeheartedly proclaim “to Salem with the witches!”, following a long-term obsession with the movie Hocus Pocus and later on, The Crucible.

During my final year of High School, my interest grew from books and film to include History studies. I fed my love of the past as I studied the French and Russian Revolutions. But I was left hungry, famished rather, to travel to these destinations rich in historical significance. Later that year, positively buzzing, I visited Paris and walked the streets where Robespierre and Danton stood. In Place De La Concord I dramatically re-enacted where the Guillotine was set up and took photos of landmarks everywhere I went. One of my main reasons for travelling to Russia was my fascination with the Revolution and the Leningrad blockade. So tragic and awful – how could this have occurred in the same world in which we live in today?

I digress a little. I was simply wanting to introduce myself to you as someone who thrives on learning about the past. If only I could combine my two loves, food and history, and become a food historian. Could there be anything more grand? One of my favourite television series is ‘The Supersizers Go’, which takes you on a journey through past eras and the food they ate during that time. It is one hour of pure, unadulterated viewing bliss. My only qualm is that it is not on the television nearly as often as I would like.

Naturally, I adore learning about my family’s traditions. I can sit and look at my nana’s slides from the 60’s for hours. Seeing my mum and her two siblings in adorable little outfits, the trips they took and houses they lived in makes me so happy. If only there were more food photographs, as oh, do I love to hear what food my parents ate as children. Retro fabulousness.

As a side note, my nana has now begun to take photographs of interesting or delicious food she encounters, as she knows that I love to hear about these things. Just this week I received an email with a photograph of strawberry pancakes that my grandparents ate while visiting the Big Strawberry. Maybe I’m starting my own family tradition here?…

Today’s post is a rather nostalgic one, focusing on history and family tradition. It revolves around my family’s Christmas Pudding. Mum was passed this beloved recipe from Aunty Daphne, my nana’s brother’s wife. The pudding is very typically English.

Each year mum makes this pudding, just the same as the year before. Come November I always see it hanging in the corner of the kitchen, ripening, to be ready for Christmas Day. Walking past the calico cloth with it’s bulbus, plump bottom, my heart is filled with warmth and anticipation, as I know that Christmas and celebrations with loved ones are just around the corner.

One adaptation that mum has made to Aunty Daphne’s recipe is the soaking of the fruit for two days (rather than one). Mum will soak the fruit in whatever alcohol she has in the house (i.e. some sherry, brandy or whisky).

For the past five or so years, we have paired our pudding with a Boozy Sauce discovered in an issue of Delicious. I adore this sauce. I always request a doubling of the recipe, as we only make it once a year and like to savour it. We often turn the second batch into ice-cream. This year I am thinking of making a third batch, for me to take home for Ben and I – it is that good.

Another family tradition relates to what goes inside the pudding. We no longer put a coin in the middle, as is a very old and common tradition. Mum and I travelled to Italy and France over Christmas 2003 and returned with little trinkets from the inside of a King Tart, which we shared with our French friends at their house over the festive season. We now put these trinkets inside our pudding, to infuse a bit of French flair into our English pudding.

This year I documented the pudding process, and I know that I will cherish these photographs in years to come. Hopefully my children develop the same love of history and family traditions that I have, and we can all come together, discussing the past and those who lived years before us over a bowl of Aunty Daphne’s Christmas Pudding.

Now we just have to wait for Christmas Day. What a tease.

What is one of your family food traditions?

Heidi xo
  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) November 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Thankyou for sharing your wonderful family tradition with us 🙂

  • Leah November 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    What a beautiful post Heidi! Thanks for sharing your families special moments. Having Greek ans Russian heritage, we are big on the whole family sitting down for a massive xmas lunch.

  • Chanel11 November 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I really enjoyed reading that – and how wonderful that you are documenting a family tradition, so those who follow long after can know its origin.

  • Hannah November 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    This post resonates with me so much, and is beautifully written. I, too, loved books like Little Women (I have Little Men and Jo's Boys too :P) but my absolute favourites with The LIttle House on the Prairie series.

    Recipes like these are so important. Maintaining family memories and love through particular recipes always makes me happy! Personally, I'm not a fan of Christmas Pudding (it's the mixed peel I can't get behind) but I LOVE your sentiment 🙂

  • My Restaurants Melbourne November 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I love that story, thanks foe sharing, I can't even think of our own family tradition.

  • Heidi November 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Lisa – you're welcome 🙂

    Leah – thank you! Oh I can only imagine the fabulous food at your family lunches. It's so nice to all gather together around a table at Christmas.

    Chanel11 – thanks, lovely 🙂

    Hannah – why thank you! You know, I have never read The Little House on the Prairie series. Maybe I should start now. And I think you should definitely make your own personalised Hannah pudding, sans peel!

    My Restaurants Melbourne – thank you!

    Heidi xo

  • Michelle Chin November 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    My mom has a lot of them but I rarely use her recipes because no matter how hard I try, she makes it better than I do. It's probably due to the love she puts it in her dishes.

  • hollypop November 25, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    so much awesomeness in one post!
    french history! russian history! french trinkets!
    puddings and boozy sauce. mmm! my nana and i make a pud every year. your pudding looks huuuuge! i thought ours was big. i think i need to step it up.
    last year we didnt make one cos i didn't know how to make it gf. but this year i am using the langhams recipe with almond meal. yum yum yum.

  • hollypop November 25, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    ooooh and my mm soaks the fruit all year. a bit excessive? nah. hehe <3

  • Heidi November 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Michelle – yes, as corny as it is the love does make it taste better!

    Hollypop – all year! wow. that must taste amazing. & our pudding is huge. we seem to still be eating pudding in March! I hope your pudding turns out well, it sounds delicious with the almond meal (which makes everything better)!

    Heidi xo

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella November 25, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Great post Heidi-will you reveal all on Christmas Day? And I really enjoy Supersizers Go-it's amazing what some people used to eat! 😮

  • laurak November 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Hi Heidi, lovely post!
    I was exactly the same in high school, and at uni ended up majoring in lit and history in my first degree, which was really just an excuse to read even more great novels and cover great areas of history!
    I make white christmas every year on behalf of my gran, who used to make it anually until she got a little bit too old to handle the quick mixing involved!
    Laura 🙂

  • The InTolerant Chef November 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Supersisers is one of my very favourite shows! I have a whole range of recipes that I only pull out at Christmas,and when I start stockpiling ingredients in November the kids start to get excited. One of our tradditons is that we get our ham Christmas week then it sits in the fridge subtlely scenting everything with smokiness until it is carved on the big day. The smell nearly drives us distracted, but we can't touch it until Christmas or else!

  • Linda Rust November 26, 2010 at 7:59 am

    That looks wonderful! I need a good pudding recipe, my grandma used to make it, but she didn't pass down her pudding recipe before she died. I have tried a couple but they never worked out the same.

  • Angela (the diet book junkie) November 26, 2010 at 8:48 am

    ah…so jealous of your travels. Paris must be beautiful and Italy is also on the bucket list. (definitely.) your pudding sounds delicious. can't wait to go home and eat some of my mom's Christmas cookies! 🙂

  • Anna Johnston November 26, 2010 at 9:12 am

    So interesting Heidi, I do love food history too, its so incredibly interesting to know that just 5 years ago people ate such an different bounty than we do so I think its an awesome idea to document your family traditions – my work with Cookie editing her diaries has made me ever so conscious of documenting (what we think is normal now….. is just for now), anyhow I digress 😉
    I remember the Christmas pudding event, Mom used to tell us about when she was little there would always be coins in it when her grandmother made the pudding, but I've never heard of the little trinkets you speak of and have decided "I must find out more about them". These days our traditions have lessened a touch but the Christmas ham is still a big one and Christmas morning wouldn't be Christmas morning without ham & poached eggs.
    Oh, I love Christmas & all the food planning & cooking, such fun.
    Thanks for sharing Heidi 🙂

  • Kath November 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

    What a lovely post! And it's great you're so much interested in family traditions and history!

    I've never seen a pudding like that! Neither te making, nor the outcome. It looks awesome!

    In my family, there aren't food traditions like that – certain foods that are prepared in a certain way and enjoyed at a certain time every year – but there are some family recipes and eating habits. For example, we mostly have fish for Christmas (instead of duck or whatever). My Dad loves to fish, so we are a real fish eating family, and a big, oven-roasted sea trout with vegetables and potatoes makes a perfect dinner at Christmas eve.

  • deb November 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

    The pudding on christmas day is my favourite thing. I've never made on though my mum or my sister are the pudding makers in our family. Dad is the pyromaniac he LOVES to pour brandy over the cooked pud, set it alight and carry it to the table. Then we get stuck in with brandy custard, cream and ice-cream. Maybe it's all the booze in it that i like!!

  • Emma @CakeMistress November 26, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I adore this beautifully written post. Really love how you're documenting tradition family recipes (gorgeous pictures too!). Every Christmas my Nanna makes enough Ravioli for an army! Wish I could get out to the country to document that one 🙂
    I love encountering old polaroid photos of my Mum and Dad. When we went back to Nanna's house, Mum still had some of her old clothes in the wardrobe! She was so pleased my sister and I borrowed the jackets and dresses she worn as a teenager.

    And I must catch an episode of Supersizers Go soon judging by the great comments.

  • Honey @ honeyandsoy November 26, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I found myself agreeing with everything you were saying about history. To this day, The Crucible is one of my favourite books, and I was lucky to have done it for Literature in school, and so got a lot into the history of the time. It still fascinates me, as does food history like on Supersizers Go and Heston's feasts (I could NOT do the blood puddings though). I love your little pictorial story of Xmas pudding!

  • Rosa's Yummy Yums November 27, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Extremely teasing! I love English pudding with custard sauce.



  • Indie.Tea November 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I'm a history person myself (just graduated with a degree in it).
    I wish my family wrote down recipes, they've been handed down verbally instead. No baked things, but taught in the kitchen…

  • Heidi November 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Lorraine – yes, I am very excited about a Christmas post 🙂

    Laura – what a fabulous major (and yes, a great excuse to read gorgeous books!). That is v nice of you, making the white christmas for your gran 🙂

    InTolerant Chef – oooh delicious! The smell of ham would completely drive my family insane – I don't know if my dad would last without nipping some!

    Linda – hopefully you find one that is the same soon! It is such a special thing. I would share this recipe but it's not mine to share (yet!!) 😉

    Angela – I'm glad you get to go home of Christmas! That will be lovely. And yes, stock up on all the things you miss, including your mum's cookies 🙂

    Anna – I can imagine reading Cookie's diaries has given you a good history/tradition boost! Thanks for sharing your ham and eggs tradition, how lovely 🙂

    Kath – that does sound like the perfect Christmas Eve dinner! Yum. Last year we did a meal like this too. With vodka shots. Very Northern European (?!? I think hehe).

    Deb – your dad sounds like a smart man, that would look awesome and taste amazing – and yes, I think the booze has something to do with the taste!

    Emma – how sweet, thank you. Your nanna's ravioli sounds incredible! Looking at old polaroids and slides of your parents is the best. And snap that you got to wear some of your mum's clothes – I love doing that too!

    Honey – it is all so fascinating, isn't it! And no, I can't do black pudding either! *shudder*

    Rosa – oooh delicious!

    Indie.Tea – I love that there are so many history lovers here. Recipes being verbally handed down is very special too. I do like the idea of documenting them though – more tangible. And fun to photograph 😉

    Heidi xo

  • almostalwaysravenous November 28, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    i should definitely start keeping track of mum's recipes… for future reference hehe.

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