I grew up reading a lot of classic kids’ stories by British authors, and one thing that it took me some time to adjust to was how the characters would eat “pudding.” Remember, to an American kid, pudding means “thickened dairy-based concoction, usually flavored with chocolate or vanilla, often served in individual cups.” But these British puddings were clearly not the puddings of my childhood. For starters, “pudding” appeared to be an all-purpose word for dessert in general, so kids in the books would ask “what’s for pudding,” much in the same way people in certain areas of the U.S. might ask “what kind of Coke do you want?” to refer to flavors of sweetened carbonated beverages. In other contexts, puddings were described as “steaming hot” and being served in “slices,” which didn’t jibe with my idea of pudding at all. The most commonly-referenced type was plum pudding, served at Christmas, and get this– it was often set on fire???
Anyway, while the idea of a flaming dessert was of course intriguing, I never gave it much thought until recently, when I was challenged by a friend to make “Christmas pudding” this year. How could I say no?