Plum puddings and Proust
Marcel Proust ate a madeleine – and a flood of memories resulted in a deep philosophical text about making memory conscious through one’s senses. In fact the madeleine has become a symbol of memories that arise unintentionally. The practicalities of baking give another dimension to memories, requiring skill, equipment and for most people, recipes to follow.
Many people have relied on the practical recipes in Edith Adams’ Christmas Baking for those recipes. It’s not glossy, it has no tedious tales about inner meanings, it gets down to the facts, and it had a devoted following in its heyday.
A few weeks ago the BC Food History Network received the following request for two plum pudding recipes from Vicki , reprinted with her permission.
Hi – I have somehow misplaced my treasured copy of Christmas Baking by Edith Adams, which was a set of typewritten recipes bound with 3 staples. I’m trying to find the two steamed pudding recipes in that section of the cookbook, both of which I think were called Christmas Pudding and which were in the old English plum pudding style. I know you have the cover of this cookbook in your archives, but I can’t find any other reference. The book was published by the Vancouver Sun eons ago, and although there’s a 2012 article online which refers to a new website under “edithadams.com”, that link doesn’t work. Can you help me? Many thanks – Vicki
After consulting, we were able to send Vicki the two pages she wanted. The following is excerpted from her response (reprinted with her consent):
For many years, my Mum made the plum pudding recipe with the buttermilk and pineapple juice (plus copious amounts of rum, of course). I remember every November 11, the house was full of the sounds of chopping and the aromas of that spice-laden batter steaming for hours. The cheesecloth-wrapped pudding, once released from its mold, would then sit, basking in rum, in the back of the fridge until Christmas Day, when it became the rapt centre of attention after the turkey was cleared away. The warm re-steamed pudding was then revealed, topped with flaming brandy and enjoyed with a simple rum-laced hard sauce. I remember, even as a small child, the magic of that dessert, and the way the hard sauce melted into the pudding, and the loving care with which my Mum crafted this dessert, year after year. I sometimes think my fondness for dark rum comes from that experience.
When Mum died, I took a lot of solace in recreating that pudding. I was only 25 when I lost her, but somehow, every year since then, taking out that tattered Edith Adams Christmas Baking book and carefully following the instructions, brings her back to me. When I misplaced the recipe, it was almost like I lost her, all over again. Seeing the typewritten font on those two lovely pages that you sent me somehow makes all seem right with my world.
Thank you again for bringing those memories back to me. On Christmas Day, when the turkey is cleared away and the pud once again takes its rightful flambeed place on my dinner table, I will toast my Mummy, and all those great childhood experiences she brought me through food.
To honour the importance and relevance of heritage cooking, we offer the following link to the recipes, edith adams christmas puddings dedicated to Vicki, her mother, and everyone else who has looked for a recipe made by someone they loved. And also, recognition of Marcel Proust, acknowledged as one of the most influential writers of modern times. He might have been surprised to find himself counted among food writers in this blog.
NOTE: Please see the following link provided by Randal Oulton about NOT trying to home-can breads or cakes as suggested by Edith Adams’ Cottage in the pages from Christmas Baking. The alert comes from the Extension Department at Iowa State University.
Home canning is a science, and recommendations are constantly evolving based on current research. It’s now strongly recommended against trying to home-can breads or cakes: the very real risk is botulism. (See: https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline/2019/12/05/home-canned-cakes-and-breads-for-gift-giving-a-big-no