30 DECEMBER 1972, Page 21

The Good Life

What we're really made of

Pamela Vandyke Price

Quite apart from the seasonal accentuation of all one's frailties, there are several moments around the winter solstice when, gastronomically, one feels wistful for ye oldene tyme, in addition to regretting ye old tumme — or rather that it is now too much with us and once was not. There is the comment "what do you want them for?" when, strayed from. one's pet poulterer, one asks for the giblets. There's the contemporary time-table for Christmas Day that omits all mention of special occasion tea (bread. and butter, jam, jelly, preserve, fruit loaf, hot scones or griddle cakes, iced fruit cake, sponge cake, 'fancy' cakes and, for a family reunion, 'pastries', Which everyone of my generation knows aren't pastry at all). This is the age when battery-jaded people admit to being 'bored' With turkey, which I think is almost better cold than hot. And last November I encountered several trendy persons who had never experienced the delights of fried Christmas pudding. Now whether one likes pudding or not, it is so 'much a British speciality that we should start preparing to lob it, in all its guises, at our gastronomic co-Marketeers, Just to indicate that it hasn't been merely the British climate that has made us islanders of stern stuff. Well may the Oxford Dictionary admit of this word 'deny. unkn.' Cosmic forces don't ' They're just there. One school of thought propounds that, when those Normans were ordering 'boudin' at the Hastings Hover

port, the nose-pieces of their helmets so clamped down on their diction that the

word emerged as 'pudding.' Other researches suggest that, when they prodded cautiously at the 'special du jour

de bataille' at the Senlac Snackery and

prudently asked what was this southern version of haggis, the Anglo-Saxon traditional code id the dose, attempting to enunciate 'pudding,' gave the world 'boudin' to la cuisine. There is a movement to establish that black pudding was the password in the east to indicate that you were anti-Dane (who, being blondes and, colour co-ordinated, had white puddings). The dumpling, of course, is a culinary version of an offensive weapon, and the great Yorkshire pud, the versions of which, have divided the northern counties more fiercely than any mere war about roses) is the begetter of a sweetened, trivial thing that the Bretons actually claim as a regional speciality of their own. "They made them (puddings) fifty different ways," rhapsodised a seventeenth century visitor, astounded by the steamed, boiled, baked, roly-poly, savoury, sweet and vegetarian variants. "Ah, what an excellent thing is an English pudding!" Although one cannot expect that the gastronomically fragile European should, in the single scooping of a spoon appreciate the delights of the mighty duffs :the essential sogginess of which drove the nineteenth century schools to the playingfields they were then able to dominate, the day should be soon when snippets of puddings (savoury) sur canape et croute enliven les cocktails, morsels of suet crust garnish consommé, coarsely crumbled Cabinet or Railway puddings significantly enhance the nondescript ices of diplomatic dinners, and pudding parlours, serving nothing else but, hit back in British fashion against the influx of bistrots, cafés continental, beer cellars and pizzerie. Meanwhile, back in the home catering scene, and supposing anyone is silly enough to be contemptuous of any of the dessert wines which are still so reasonably priced. and, with some fresh fruit, make the best substitute puddings of all, here's a very simple sweet, for which you need a pudding basin. For each person take one egg, and one egg more. Beat the eggs till they froth, add a very little caster sugar and , some grated orange or lemon peel, then pour into the buttered basin, having first put in a dollop of jam or preserve for each person. Plum, apricot or greengage jam or marmalade do well, though strawberry and the currant jams never seem quite right to me, but quince jelly or preserve is best of all. Bake this mixture in a fairly hot oven for 12-20 minutes, varying the time according to how many eggs are involved (I cook a 3-4 egg mixture for 15-20, but if you use more than five eggs, I would use two or three basins and not extend the time further). The mixture will puff right up and must be served at once. It is rather like a sweet puffy omelette made in the oven, or a type or souffle. But we British know it's really a Jam Puff Pudding.