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 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

6 Days Ago

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



Reviews

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 4 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Days 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 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Days 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 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Neville Pettitt

5 Days 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 Days Ago

You kill me!
Neville Pettitt

5 Days 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 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

5 Days 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 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lyn Anderson

6 Days Ago

I believe we are kindred spirits in many ways
barleygirl

6 Days Ago

Hope your holidays are love-filled!
Lyn Anderson

6 Days 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 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

6 Days 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 Days Ago

Ah, unplugging is a joy to behold.. so glad you were able to do that, Margie.. Keep your soul always.. read more
So this white fat like thing is called Suet in English...😀
We slaughter a cow and a goat every year in Qurbani Eid day in the name of Almighty....and am the only little fella in my house who is too curious in watching the butchers separating parts of the slaughtered cow's and goat's...Mom is always tired making me understand the names of the parts in our language....
And suet is a part of that curiosity!
Hope you have a healthy and warm and sweet and spicy and Merry Christmas this year!!


Posted 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

6 Days Ago

I hope my story isn't too telling -- that we "civilized" cultures buy our meat at the store without .. read more
Tahsin.Z🍁

6 Days Ago

Oh, not slaps😯 but kisses😚😚
I loved reading this here..quite an unexpected yet satis.. read more
This was as good of a write as any Margie. I loved the history, sautéed in nostalgia and topped with a nice glaze made from family and holiday memories. There are traditions, and then there are traditions. While Plum pudding sounds disgusting...you made it alm0st seem palatable...LOL!!!! I loved the warmth and the togetherness for we all know that even when life isn't that grand as a child...there are always those times we can remember with and honest heart. Loved this!!

Posted 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

6 Days Ago

Your review is so creative! I'm honored & delighted! I had to refresh my spirit in recent weeks, unp.. read more
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 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

6 Days Ago

This is also the best review I've ever gotten from you. I love stimulating your memories becuz you'v.. read more
it is wonderful how a memory can take hold of our past and even invade our tastebuds. Thank you for this wonderful trip in time.

Posted 6 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

6 Days Ago

I watched an old-fashioned movie recently that featured the making of suet pudding & all this came b.. read more
Cherrie Palmer

6 Days Ago

nothing refreshes the soul better than a tidal wave size flashback.

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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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