Word of the day: “figgy pudding” from “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
performed by John Denver and the Muppets
Here’s my holiday admission: I like fruitcake. It’s a family tradition, and my grandma excelled at it. Every family got a loaf (loaf?) of fruitcake. Since my grandma passed away, my grandpa has been making it, and he had such a good time this year that he made it twice. That means that my 81 year-old grandfather has recently made 14 loaves (?) of fruitcake. Grandma’s recipe calls for 10 eggs. This fruitcake is a commitment.
But even though we know that at least one of grandpa’s loaves (?) is on its way with my parents in a couple of days, yesterday my sister and I made more fruitcake from a different family recipe. I like this one even more. It has coconut and gumdrops in it. Yum!
Anyway, I feel that my enjoyment of fruitcake makes me a more sympathetic audience to other archaic, often suspect Christmas desserts—like figgy pudding. I’ve never actually had figgy pudding, but I’m open to the idea, even though it looks a tad too much like blood pudding, which I have had and which I only enjoyed when it came from a fine two-star Michelin restaurant. I did not enjoy it at a quaint B&B in Yorkshire or from an Irish grocery.
The original meaning of “pudding” is more or less synonymous with “sausage.” I like sausage, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about figgy sausage. The meat portion of figgy pudding seems to have fallen out of figgy pudding fashion anyway. This is, according to Wikipedia, a “potage” of mashed figs thickened up with bread. If you weren’t sure about figgy pudding before, does calling it a “potage” help?
A close cousin of figgy pudding is a Christmas pudding which is sometimes called “pud” or a plum pudding, which is a bit of a misnomer now because said “plums” were traditionally raisins instead. There seems to be some kind of unwritten contest to see how many different ingredients you can cram into such a pudding. Options include raisins and other dried fruit, egg, hard beef lard (so maybe the meat element hasn’t been entirely eradicated), treacle and/or molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, citrus juice, brandy and/or beer or port. The important part includes enough alcohol to keep the thing from rotting for the weeks following. This is because each person in the house stirs the pudding and makes a wish, and then they hang it up like a heavy, dripping stocking for a really long time. Like weeks. Or months. Lots of alcohol, folks.
Anyway, do you want some figgy pudding right now? You won’t go until you’ve got some? Doesn’t that line in “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” vaguely resemble trick or treating? Figgy pudding or what? Coal in your stocking? A diet of fruitcake? Let my grandpa know—he’s got extra this year.