Sensing the past... (AGGIL 14)
Gosh, it was a rather busy and unexpectedly emotional day yesterday!
I said to Richard on Saturday that I wanted to make a Christmas Pudding, as it was Stir-Up Sunday this weekend which is the traditional day that people in the UK would make their Christmas Puddings; families all coming together and giving the mix a stir, each making a wish as they did so. It's obviously one of those traditions that is dying out swiftly now that we can go to any supermarket or corner shop and buy the pasty, sweet, microwaveable, unrecognisable Christmas Puddings that they sell these days. However, I was absolutely sure there is nothing like the real thing that mum used to make, and I wanted to make it. So make it we did!!
Now, I haven't made mum's Christmas Puddings for many decades. In fact, I don't think I've made a traditional Christmas Pudding since I last made one with mum when I must have been in my very, very early 20s.
Mum had given me one of her old cookery books some years back. It's an old Hamlyn cookery book with a pale blue cloth-like cover. The dust sheet has long been lost, and various splodges of cake batter and gravy now sit comfortably alongside the jaded and faded fake gold lettering on the cover binding. It wasn't actually the recipe for Christmas Pudding in the book that I was looking for though. You see, I knew that mum's handwritten recipe of HER Christmas Pudding was on a piece of paper cradled between two of the leaves of the book. I took Cooking In Colour off of my cookery book shelves (note... MY cookery book shelves, not OUR cookery book shelves!). I found the slip of mottled paper with red writing, and then remembered what I had known all along... the list of ingredients used and their weights was for 16 puddings, and I certainly didn't want to make 16!! So I set to and converted all of the ounces into grams and millilitres and then divided all of the total amount of each ingredient by 16. In the end, looking at the full list of ingredients and their weights for one pudding, I decided that I would do one and a half times this reduced amount of mix. It turned out that this was perfect for making 8 individual puddings; it was Richard's idea to make individual puddings rather than one large one, and I think that he had the right idea.
It was in the first moments of stirring this scented mix that the initial sense of the past came back to me... Standing around the dining room table with mum at my side and a huge plastic Tupperware in front of us. We would stir the mixture thoroughly, ensuring that everything was incorporated; no pockets of dry flour here, and no clumps of gooey, squidgy chopped prunes there. Just one unctious flavourful dried fruit, almond, sugar, suet, rum and stout paste. We'd have to take turns in doing the stirring as the quantity of mixture was so large it was really quite tiring on the arms!
My second sense of the past was when I could smell the puddings steaming. The gentle spicy aroma filled the kitchen, then our middle room, the ground floor, then the upstairs until the whole house was engulfed in scented memories. And boy did that aroma take me back decades again! I've obviously smelt Christmas Puddings over the decades, though none have given me this sense of days of old.
And then we jump forward to the tasting, and wowsers... didn't that bang me right back to being a child!! Sitting around the table at Christmas, with family and friends and some people that I didn't even know who they were. Presents had been opened and played with and the turkey carcass was sitting under tinfoil on top of the fridge. There we all were with our coloured paper Christmas cracker hats on, all feeling slightly boozy (even us youngsters as we were allowed Babycham!), terrible jokes had been read aloud, useless cracker gifts were spread around the tablecloth, some gleeful choir was singing updated carols and festive songs on the radio... and then would come mum's Christmas Puddings. Glistening. Flaming. And beautiful. In my opinion, heavenly. 😊
If you've seen the video of us making the Christmas Puddings you will see how I got rather overwhelmed by emotion. It was simply because the taste of this pudding just sent me back decades to all the memories above - to the joys of those people, of which too many are sadly no longer in our lives today, though they will live forever in our hearts... dad, my brother Perri, Aunty Phil, Uncle Len, Aunty Betty and Uncle Mick. Life is so short, yet it can also be so joyous.
And I guess that's the wonderful thing about food, along with many other daily necessities and luxuries.
In the depths of our minds we have so many memories that are associated with a smell or a taste or a sight or a sound, and even a touch. It's in moments like these, sometimes decades later, when these special times are relived, most often unexpectedly, that we're just taken back to our childhood or back to special moments of remembrance. It can be quite overwhelming, though it can also be so enriching too. I for one am so pleased that we have these moments as they highlight time's gone by; for me many are wonderfully sweet and happy whilst some are more bittersweet. However, these memories and events are part of the person each of us is today, and hopefully even more memories can be made for us to fall back to as we get older, and wiser, and remember.
And... as I sat in our front room this morning quietly doing the final edit of this blog before posting it, something quite lovely, unexpected and extraordinary happened, though this story will have to wait for another day...
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 14
25/11/2019 06:22:44 pm
Lovely Paul and now I have tears in my eyes. Memories flooding in.
25/11/2019 06:30:50 pm
Oh Greta, thank you. I think this came over more melancholic than I had first intended, though as I wrote it sort of wrote itself. I hope many of those memories of yours are joyous. 😊
25/11/2019 06:24:52 pm
Beautifully written - I can smell the aroma of the spices as they flood your home! A great tribute you your mum.
25/11/2019 06:32:57 pm
Thank you hugely Stephen. Much appreciated, as was your last blog which I found thought provoking and clear. 😊
25/11/2019 08:53:23 pm
Oh Paul just reading it I am undone and in tears..amazing how a sound or a smell can spark a memory..I too have lost my Mom and Dad and two sisters...but I am grateful I am not afraid to remember..Thanks for sharing your heart with us..I could smell them from across the pond💌💋
25/11/2019 09:31:19 pm
Oh thank you so much Anna. This blog post did sort of write itself, and I got it all down shortly after we had completed the filming. I am so glad the words reached out to you. ❤️
25/11/2019 10:50:14 pm
My goodness Paul that was an emotional blog. I too have lost my mum and dad, my mum four years ago, she was 89. Your memories sparked off so many of our happy family Christmases. We too were allowed Babycham, the turkey on top of the fridge. The smells, the visitors, merrymaking. My memories flooded back such happy times. Thank you I’m emotional, but happy for reading your blog.
26/11/2019 08:42:15 am
Tracey, I am so glad this resonated. I know there are many of us that have such memories, and it's always good to remember them when the senses allow. 😊 Sometimes it can be a bit tearful and thought provoking, though that is what life is about and makes it worthwhile. 😊
26/11/2019 12:08:48 am
DearPaul, lovely piece of writing, so evocative. I watched the making of the puddings and could almost see you as that little boy sitting at the Christmas table. I haven’t made the puddings yet, didn’t have all the ingredients. I’m off out tomorrow with my basket and shopping list to our unwrap shop. Oh and the offie for the rum.
26/11/2019 08:45:36 am
Philippa, isn't that lovely that this came across? Totally unintentional though I guess that's how the senses get us. Let us know how you get on with mum's Christmas Puddings. 😊
brian j brown
26/11/2019 01:02:54 am
26/11/2019 08:54:07 am
26/11/2019 08:59:04 am
Isn't it interesting Shirley how these little blasts from our pasts kick us right back in time? Whether a cookie, a pudding, or the smell of baking bread, and so much more besides. 😊
27/11/2019 07:38:02 am
Thank you Debbie. If you make these, enjoy your wishes too. 😊
26/11/2019 01:36:46 pm
Oh Paul this blog made me so happy and brought back many lovely memories. Like your Mum my recipes are mainly written on scraps of paper (plus bits of batter mix) stuck in an old diary
27/11/2019 07:41:52 am
Oh Sandra, this has really warmed me up this morning and made me smile as I drink my tea (which Richard has brought me, as usual - he is always awake and up before me at the moment!). I hope that mojo keeps on going and wish you to happy weeks, and months, and more, ahead. 😊
3/12/2019 12:02:51 am
Oh, the memories this brought back Paul, as a family of 6, living on the IOM then later moving to Stockport ( where my Father was from ), then up to Hazel Grove before eventually moving back to the IOM mid 60's, your mention of Babycham, the very thing that my Mother used to have, but we were always allowed a sip...Thank you for this one..
4/12/2019 10:25:13 am
You are very welcome Stephen. I am so glad the momories flowed back. 😊
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