food · Ritual food

Christmas puddings and memories

Today is the last Sunday in November, which is the day I traditionally (after 15 years I think I can call it a tradition) make my Christmas puddings. The number I make varies year on year but its never less than three. The recipe never varies. Its one that my mother wrote down for me fifteen years ago after I asked her for her Christmas pudding recipe to which she replied, “I don’t really have one, I just made mine based on what I remember Mam making”. But I nagged and cajoled and eventually she wrote it down. She always maintained it wasn’t as good as her Mam’s.

Fourteen years ago my husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas in our forever home and Mum spent it with us. I’d made a pudding but we didn’t eat it on Christmas Day, as I wanted to wait until the 27th Dec when my Granny – her Mam – and the originator of the recipe I had used – would be visiting our home. After dinner that day I proudly and also rather nervously served up the pudding. Our family always eats it cold with a cuppa and some have brandy butter on it too. I insisted no one was to taste it until my 91 year old Granny had. This amused her immensely as she took a bite and gave it her imprimatur. Albeit with the observation that if I’d grated fresh nutmeg rather than using already ground it would have been even nicer. (No I don’t know how she knew either)

Less than four years later my Granny died while I was pregnant with my daughter. One of my enduring sadnesses is that she never got to meet our precious little girl who I’m certain would have wrapped her Great Granny round her little finger. I have made puddings every year since and – like all cooks I think – have slightly tweaked the recipe that was handed down to me. I still don’t use fresh nutmeg though.

Two weeks ago my Mum died suddenly. I know it hasn’t really hit me yet and won’t for some time. Maybe once her funeral is over I will start to absorb the impact of it all. Mum didn’t have the easiest or happiest of lives at times but I firmly believe she is at peace now and reunited with my Dad who she missed so desperately for nearly seventeen years.

Today is pudding making day. I wasn’t sure if I would make any this year and I only decided for certain this afternoon that I will. Mum loved the pudding I made and so did my Granny. Both my parents and all my grandparents are dead now and while I have aunts and uncles still very much alive and kicking, I’m now the oldest generation in my direct line of ancestry. It feels very strange. I’ve long believed all we can do for the dead is remember them. By making my puddings this evening I’m remembering Granny, Mum and all the others who have gone before.

Rest in peace Mum, and thanks for giving me the recipe x

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