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?