Plum Pudding

Plum Pudding

A Story by barleygirl
"

an old-fashioned holiday tradition . . .

"


I was born at home and delivered by my father’s hands when we lived on a farm forty miles south of San Francisco. In 1956 the entire peninsula had not yet turned into a sea-to-sea metropolis. I remember driving past miles and miles of orchards between San Francisco and San Jose.

On our small farm we cultivated a haphazard collection of fruit and nut trees creatively called an orchard, plus we had a ramshackle barn with some cows for milk, butter, and beef. Butchering a cow was a work-intensive undertaking that required the whole family to participate. Besides nine offspring from five different marriages between my parents, there were often two or three strays we took in from some other broken mess in the extended family.

It wasn’t uncommon to grow up knowing exactly what the inside of a butchered animal looks like and how to harvest the possibilities. Clustered around kidneys there’s a particular bright white fat called suet. It’s one of the rare and precious gifts inside the body of most mammals we butchered. I can still remember how it felt hard and waxy, not soft and pliable like the fat on the rest of the carcass. Perusing the internet these days I see suet is used in the United Kingdom. But here in the United States I bet most people under fifty have never heard of it. Suet has long been used for baking and making candles from tallow.

Prior to Christmas our family set out to butcher some barely-adult animal fattened all summer on grain for just this purpose. Dad would carve off and set aside a mammoth-sized prime rib roast for our holiday feast and Mom carefully peeled the suet from the internal cavity. The suet was chopped into chunks and frozen to make plum pudding on Christmas Day. In my mind’s eye I can still see and feel the waxy fat, more prized for baking than the home-churned butter we skimmed from our daily milking.

Most plum puddings do not contain plums. Also called suet pudding, it isn’t really pudding either. The moist fall-apart unctuousness of this old-fashioned dessert is somewhere between fruitcake and mincemeat. We always used a recipe from my paternal grandmother which was steamed in a large greased coffee can bobbing in a covered cauldron of water for hours. Most disliked the over-processed fruit in fruitcake, so mom used only walnuts and raisins which plumped up into wrinkly grapes. I remember using buttermilk created on the spot by adding fresh lemon juice to still-warm milk just off the teat. Our plum pudding was dark brown and rich with the flavor of molasses, but not too sweet, almost savory with sizzling suet cracklins forming a crust I devoured by breaking off stolen nibbles.

Grandmother’s plum pudding was one of the most anticipated aspects of Christmas for me. Born a foodie, I looked forward to plum pudding more than presents under the tree. The holiday grand finale was served last, after all-day gluttony punctuated by naps and leisurely walks and tastes from many cookie and candy platters gifted by neighbors. Finally that glorious coffee can would be yanked from the bubbling vat with tongs! Inverted onto a platter, it spilled out and broke apart into steaming chunks immediately drizzled with a fresh lemon glaze that tweaked my cheeks when I licked it from a furtive finger swipe.

Amid a colorful array of home-baked pies in perfectly-browned crusts paired with a big bowl of fresh-whipped sweet cream, the plum pudding platter seemed like the proverbial brown t**d in the punchbowl. As the years went by I had to plead with mom: please let’s make it one more time (even though most took a polite bite or two before putting their dessert plates on the floor for the nearest lucky dog to lick).

Thinking back I must admit plum pudding wasn’t THAT delicious. I was caught up in the tradition of how we made this dessert once a year. I find myself longing for such civility these days, how we managed to swallow a few tidbits of a dreaded dish crafted with care by some rickety old relative we only ever see on Christmas. Remember choking down creamed onions without mentioning those tasteless watery canned pearl onions?

If only we could find our way back to civility without chafing . . . as if simple kindness has become a scorned obligation to be “PC” (politically correct).






© 2018 barleygirl



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Featured Review

In my opinion, this is the very best thing you've written lately, and it's winner. I love the old ways of doing things, the old recipes and such, and this story makes a fine time machine to take us to a great Christmastime past. We know of the not good parts of your early life, but not much of the good. This is good. With our parents generation fading or gone, it's wonderful to hear of how they did things. Now, I wish I knew how my mother made that sweet custard-cornmeal desert.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

This is also the best review I've ever gotten from you. I love stimulating your memories becuz you'v.. read more



Reviews

That was incredibly entertaining. I could visualize every aspect of your story as if I was there. Memories like those should be treasured and I can't help but feel a little jealous that I don't have a similar one. You wrapped everything up rather nice with your end paragraph. It reminds me to just accept people and things the way they are and to quit complicating the world.

Posted 5 Months Ago


So many wonderful things here! My kids and I have been going through the Dickens catalog this year, and so I’m planning a Dickens Christmas dinner- if I can manage it. I’ve never had plum pudding but we are excited about trying it for the first time. Reading through this I feel even more excited.

Your story also made me excited about tradition: past, present, and future, and nostalgic for things I didn’t know I could be. My husband’s family are farmers and when I married in (city girl that I was) I learned all sorts of things about animal husbandry and the inner workings of cows, etc. At nineteen I found a lot of it revolting, but a lot of it fascinated me as well. Your story real brought those different aspects alive for me.

One thing I learned about farm life very quickly is how important it is to be closely connected to those you live with and how necessary it is to work together. That’s something else your story really brought to the fore again. The communion of living with each other while living by the labor of your hands. Those things can seem like distant memories now with everything being dominated by a techno lifestyle, but they are still there in potential and imagination.

I really enjoyed reading this. Perfect festive story!

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

Your long thoughtful share makes writing my story even more satisfying. I love hearing about your ow.. read more
I loved this story. Old fashion life and ways. Become more wonderful and cherished. I liked the description of the food. Always a pleasure to read your word dear Margie.
Coyote

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

I've been getting much encouragement to write more stories . . . since it's winter now, I'm trying t.. read more
Coyote Poetry

3 Months Ago

I love your stories.
barleygirl

3 Months Ago

Thank you so much! I love yours too!
I now want to eat plum pudding! I haven’t really celebrated Christmas dinner stuff.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

I never do the big holiday meals anymore. I just like to remember back when I could eat one heaping .. read more
JungLee

5 Months Ago

Thank you! Usually I just eat at a Chinese restaurant
Your story takes me back to World War 2 and the weird creations of "gourmet" meals made from whatever was obtainable at the time. Spam fritters with macaroni, trifle made with breadcrumbs and boiled dried fruit. " banana spread" sandwiches, made with parsnips and "bananna essence",as real bananas were unobtainable in Britain for about 6 years)
These were occasional treats, as the official rations were eked out to make them last as long as possible. Fortunately, most people had gardens, and were able to keep chickens and rabbits to supplement and we remained healthy.
Love your rural stories that show that modern luxury can sometimes be be an overrated "necessity".

(((Hugs))) Norm

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

Your selection of creative eats is very intriguing & worthy of a write all its own! Put that on your.. read more
This story you’ve given us is a precious Christmas gift ((Margie)). As always you paint a picture so real, so tangible, with your masterful words. You put us right into this American-Dickensian-Steinbeckian scene from your bittersweet childhood . This excellently written memory is tender, warm, honest and so beautifully descriptive. It’s as good, or better, than any Christmas tale I’ve ever read. I agree, we are not a society that often does not take the time, or thought, to appreciate traditions anymore. Thank you for helping us remember. Xo

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

Thank you for a heartfelt & expansive comment on my message! Wow! I feel so honored and I can only b.. read more
Having read and digested, then re-read and re-digested, I am compelled to say bloody well done.. what an amazingly well crafted and subsequently presented festive feast you have laid before us all here... Having followed you for ever Margie, I must confess that whilst I was waiting for something spectacular to be offered up prior the actual festive season commencing in real terms.... I really must now congratulate ya for exceeding all my earlier expectations... Neville

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Neville Pettitt

5 Months Ago

if any man say's ya got a dry creek.. he's a dead man and you can tell him from me :) x
barleygirl

5 Months Ago

You kill me!
Neville Pettitt

5 Months Ago

I just want the whole of ya :)
I have missed you and your stories Margie! Although I giggle and Oh...at your rhyme time.. I love these stories the best, even the sad or hard ones. I think you could write a best seller about your life! Having foot surgery next Thursday and will be chair bound for about six weeks. I will be scrolling through all the oldies before it's over! Hope to see you round!

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

When I write silly poetry, I can be flippant, which comes easily. When I write prose, I strive for c.. read more
So much truth and simplicity in this write. It shines. I started a tradition with my kids of making crafts. Every year, no matter how crappy I felt, we did it together. When I broke free of the bad, I also ditched the crafts, which I decided to take up again this year. It really isn't about the pudding, or the pie, or the handmade candles, but the process and the tradition. I am all for returning to that place.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lyn Anderson

5 Months Ago

I believe we are kindred spirits in many ways
barleygirl

5 Months Ago

Hope your holidays are love-filled!
Lyn Anderson

5 Months Ago

I hope the same for you
This is so beautifully done, every scent comes alive... every flavor. Reminds me of my younger years near San Francisco and our trees that my dad cared for so much. These memories you speak over us come to life, bring us there with you, remind us of sweeter days. Wondrous, rich depth!

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Months Ago

Our chaotic times have kept me in a state of agitation the past couple years & lately it's gotten to.. read more
An owl on the moon

5 Months Ago

Ah, unplugging is a joy to behold.. so glad you were able to do that, Margie.. Keep your soul always.. read more

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Added on December 5, 2018
Last Updated on December 5, 2018

Author

barleygirl
barleygirl

Central Coast, CA



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Just loving life & sharing my blessings. more..

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