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A Pudding of a Christmas

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The coming of Christmas in our house started with the pudding. It was not a case of which brand or what size to buy rather it was a ritual of organisation and preparation.

The last Sunday in November was the day. After dinner when the delph was washed, dried and put away we began.

The ingredients and utensils were lined up on the table and what an array. Eggs, suet, bread, flour, candied peel, raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, a cooking apple and last but not least a bottle of stout. All stood beside a large basin, a slightly smaller basin, greaseproof paper, twine, pudding bowls, a knife or two and some newspaper.

To me, a child of parents who proudly wore their pioneer pins, the bottle of stout was an unfamiliar object. The stout itself didnít look inviting and I wondered just how anyone could actually drink it. It looked YUCK!!!!!!!!

Aprons were donned as we gathered round the table to be given our jobs. First the fruit had to be cleaned. This meant newspaper was spread on the table, the fruit was placed in a sieve and flour was rubbed and shaken through it to clean it. You could see particles of dust separating from the fruit and gathering on the paper. Then the candied peel was cut into pieces. Green, orange and lemon were the colours of the peel in stark contrast to the darkness of the fruit.

The bread, a stale loaf, was grated into breadcrumbs. Mind you you had to be careful of your fingers as you rubbed up and down, up and down. The cooking apple had to be peeled, cored and chopped. Indeed a carrot was sometimes added, grated of course.

Next all dry ingrediaents were mixed together. No scientific measuring, just the use of a tablespoon and a keen eye knowing what was just right. When the lids on the spice jars were released an aromatic spell pervaded the air. The spices conjured up a hint of the orient and a promise of flavours that would arouse your taste buds.

In the second bowl my mother mixed the wet ingredients. The eggs were cracked and beaten. Sometimes they were cracked already as a saving could be made if you managed to buy cracked eggs from your grocer. Remember waste was deemed sinful and the buying of cracked eggs helped to eek out a meagre budget. The stout and possibly the juice of a lemon or orange, if available, were added.

My mother made a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and with a well-practised movement lifted the bowl of wet ingredients and slowly, cautiously poured the brown eggy liquid into the rich and pungent dry ingredients. She poured and mixed till every last drop had seeped its way and become one with the dry ingredients.

A brown yellowy mass with dark eyes and an odd coloured particle scattered here and there looked up at me from within the confines of the basin. It was better to close your eyes and let your senses take over, just in case one of those dark piercing eyes winked up at me and gave me a sleepless night.

Time had passed, the slow labourious preparation was nearing completion, just the one remaining task before the pudding was left to stand for Mondayís boiling.

We waited in anticipation for our turn, after all there were eight Kennys in our house. Then it was my turn to take the wooden spoon. My fingers wound themselves round the handle. Oh it was hard to make the spoon stir and wish at the same time. But I managed, three times round and a childís fervent wish was made - Please Santa, remember me.

Yes Christmas was coming.