Mindy Ross, American Renaissance, December 31, 2019
In November, the public library was giving away free books. I picked up a copy of Great British Cooking by Miss Jane Garmey. Published in 1981, it may not be allowed in book stores today because it isn’t multicultural. I stored it away if only to preserve a small part of American history that is slowly fading.
As a feminist, I was not a great cook. In women’s studies classes in the early 1980s, I was taught that men should prepare their own food or starve. Over the years, I have softened and learned how to cook from YouTube. I now believe that if my husband works a 12-hour day to provide for me, the least I can do is have a well-cooked meal waiting when he gets home.
If Gloria Steinem — an editor I once wrote for — doesn’t like my surrender, too bad. She has become one of the radical, man-hating hags that women like me despise. While I was growing up in the 1970s, she played a major part in the breakdown of our society, and I have a hard time forgiving her for it.
My husband is a descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, who came to America on the Mayflower. Alden was a crew member but decided to stay in Plymouth rather than return to England. He served as treasurer and assistant governor, and signed the Mayflower Compact. Together, the couple raised 10 children. Descendants of John and Priscilla Alden make up one of the largest groups of Mayflower descendants living today.
This is why I thought my husband might like to try a few of the traditional recipes British and Irish immigrants prepared in the homeland. Since Christmas was a month away, I had looked up a recipe for plum pudding, but was disappointed. The dotted concoction looked awful. Gray and slimy, a cook must wrap the ingredients in a cloth and leave it hanging for three months to one year. The alcohol in it is thought to keep it from spoiling. I was not about to take that risk.
Ironically, on Thanksgiving Day this year, my sister-in-law began talking about Irish cooking, though she didn’t call it that. Meat pies and spotted dick (a pudding “spotted” with raisins), are recipes passed down from her mother, who was of Irish descent. Sadly, the granddaughters, who are ten and eight, may not be allowed to prepare them. By the time they are ready to take command in the kitchen, British cooking may very well be banned. It may be considered “food of the oppressors” or some such nonsense.
In 2017, the New York Post published a shocking article called “Why Schools Have Stopped Teaching History.” The author, Karol Markowicz, claims that students aren’t learning about explorers, settlers, or the American Revolution until they are in the fourth grade. Eighty-eight percent of the teachers surveyed say teaching American history is a low priority. For one thing, the subject isn’t tested at the state level, so why bother? For another, teachers often don’t know enough to teach it. And then some teachers are uncomfortable talking about “uncomfortable” subjects such as how the Pilgrims broke bread with the Indians. Parents might complain.
The author of the article claims that her first grader knows about President George Washington only because of the soundtrack from the Broadway show Hamilton, and has no idea who discovered America.
A father in Brooklyn that she interviewed says his daughter, who is in the second grade, knows that Washington was the first president but not why Abraham Lincoln is famous. This is no surprise. If students learned that a white man freed the slaves, it would destroy the assumption that racism is in our DNA.
Instead of American history, some schools teach a “holiday curriculum,” whatever that means. A friend says that in his grandchildren’s charter-school classes, everything about Christianity is removed, including hymns from “holiday” performances.
It is up to us, the older generation, to keep our culture from drowning. A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only 18 percent of American high school students are “proficient” in US history. Stanford University refuses to require courses on Western Civilization, while schools in North Carolina have changed their curriculum so as to teach history only from 1877 onward. If we don’t take a stand, we will lose a piece of ourselves forever.
“As colleges around the country see protests to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statues from their campuses, it’s becoming the norm to erase the parts of history that we find uncomfortable,” Miss Markowicz writes. “It’s not difficult to teach children that the pilgrims or Thomas Jefferson were imperfect yet still responsible for so much that is good in America.”
Have you noticed how often outsiders call our people “imperfect” while taking advantage of what they built? Let’s offer them free tickets to places they like better.
Plum pudding was thought to have originated in medieval England and was a symbol of unity throughout the British Empire, a place Miss Markowicz does not mention. Custom dictated that it be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared using 13 ingredients to symbolize Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every member of the household, including servants, be allowed to stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their journey in that direction.
The collect for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer begins with the words, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works . . .” This led to the custom of preparing pudding on that day, which became known as “Stir-up Sunday.”
British royalty enjoyed this dessert, and colonists carried it to many parts of the world. It arrived in America in pre-revolutionary times and became popular in the 1830s when Mary Kettilby published her book A Collection of about Three Hundred Recipes in Cookery, Physick, and Surgery: for the use of all good wives, tender mothers, and careful nurses. High-quality digital copies are sold on the Internet.
In 1845, Eliza Acton was the first to refer to the concoction as “Christmas Pudding” in her bestselling book Modern Cookery for Private Families. It became popular because it could be cooked without an oven; lower-class households didn’t have one.
The mixture contains no plums at all. In pre-Victorian times, the word “plum” meant “raisin.” Over the years, silver coins, tiny wishbones, silver thimbles, and anchors have been mixed in for good luck. Traditions like this help win the battle against the breakdown of the American family. They bring a sense of cohesiveness and create fond memories.
The plum pudding, made mostly from eggs and spice, is turned out of its basin, decorated with holly, doused with brandy or rum, set on fire, and then ceremoniously brought to the table and greeted with applause.
In 1843, Charles Dickens described the scene in, A Christmas Carol:
Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in . . . . Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper which smells like a washing day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating house and a pastry cook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quarter ignited brandy and bedight with Christmas holly stuck to the top.
During the Depression, the pudding was made on Christmas Day rather than weeks or months ahead of time. Eggs were left out and iced tea took the place of brandy. I wouldn’t mind trying it to see why it was considered a delicacy. And if given the opportunity, I will tell my sister-in-law’s grandchildren the story of their Puritan ancestors and how they came to America. Sadly, they may not hear about it anywhere else.
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Mrs. Messenger’s Christmas Plum Pudding (Great British Cooking, page 170):
According to Mrs. Beeton, Plum Pudding “is seasonable on December 25th and on various festive occasions until March.” She is absolutely right — Plum Pudding is far too good to be eaten only on Christmas Day, and most British cooks make 2 or 3 puddings at the same time. With this recipe, you can either make 1 large pudding or 2 smaller ones. Remember to prepare your pudding(s) at least 3 months beforehand; some cooks like to make their puddings up to a year ahead of time. Everybody has his own favorite recipe for plum pudding. This one, which is not hard to prepare, comes from my cousin’s mother-in-law. Serve with Brandy Butter. Serves 8.
1 cup currants
1 cup white raisins
1 ½ cups raisins
1 cup flour
2 cups stale breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded suet
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
¼ quarter cup chopped almonds
4 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons Guinness
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup rum
2 tablespoons candied fruit peel
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and put them in either 1 English pudding bowl that holds approximately 7-8 cups or 2 smaller bowls if you prefer to make 2 puddings. Leave at least 1 inch at the top of the bowl so that the pudding has room to expand.
Cover with two sheets of waxed paper and a layer of aluminum foil. Tie the top tightly around the rim of the basin with string and make a handle so that the pudding can be lifted.
Place an upturned saucer in the bottom of a large pan of water and bring the water to a boil. Lower the pudding into the water so that it stands on the saucer and make sure that the water comes at least ¾ of the way up. Cover and boil over low heat for 7 hours, checking from time to time to make sure that the water level does not drop. If it does, add more water.
Remove the pudding from the water and store it in a cool place.
On the day you eat the pudding, you should boil it for 2 hours in the same way as before. Then remove the cover and turn the pudding onto a serving plate.
Before serving, warm a little brandy in a saucepan, pour it over the top of the pudding and light it with a match.