Today’s offering, a little plum pudding with a side of History a’la carte
800 years of Plum Pudding
Few foods can trace their history back through multiple centuries. Plum pudding stands out as one of those few. It began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron. Dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added to the mix as well.
Another ancestor to the plum pudding, porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before the Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit was served to start a meal.
As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, and dried fruit, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor and increased its shelf life. Variants were made with white meat, though gradually the meat was omitted and replaced by suet. The root vegetables also disappeared. By 1650, the plum pudding had transformed from a main dish to a dessert, the customary one served at Christmas. Not long afterward though, plum pudding was banned by Oliver Cromwell because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding harked back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.
George I, sometime called the Pudding King revived the dish in 1714 when he requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast to celebrate his first Christmas in England. Subsequently it became entrenched as part of traditional holiday celebrations, taking its final form of cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly in the 1830’s. In 1858 it was first dubbed the Christmas Pudding, recorded as such in Anthony Trollope‘s Doctore Thorne…
Plum pudding traditions
With a food so many centuries in the making, it is not surprising to find many traditions have evolved around the making and eating of plum pudding.
The last Sunday before Advent is considered the last day on which one can make Christmas puddings since they require aging before they are served. It is sometimes known as ‘Stir-up Sunday‘. This is because opening words of the main prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 for that day are:
“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Choir boys parodied the prayer.
“Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we’ll eat it up hot.”
Christmas pudding is prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles then it is “stirred up” all family members who must take a hand in the stirring, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib). The stirring must be done clockwise, from east to west to honor the journey of the Magi, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish.
After the family stirred the pudding, tiny charms might be added to the pudding to reveal their finders’ fortune. The trinkets often included a thimble (for spinsterhood or thrift), a ring (for marriage), a coin (for wealth), a miniature horseshoe or a tiny wishbone for good luck, and an anchor for safe harbor.
When the pudding was served, a sprig of holly was placed on the top of the pudding as a reminder of Jesus’ Crown of Thorns that he wore when he was killed. Flaming the pudding, as described by Dickens was believed to represent the passion of Christ and represent Jesus’ love and power. It is also a key part of the theatrical aspect of the holiday celebration…
Read the entire article here: 800 years of Plum Pudding at English Historical Fiction Authors
And now, a new selection of History a’la Carte for your Thursday enjoyment.