Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christmas Plum-Pottage.

       Mortifying as Lord Macartney's great plum-pudding failure may have been to the diplomatist, he might have consoled himself by remembering that plum-porridge was the progenitor of the pride and glory of an English Christmas. In old times, plum-pottage was always served with the first course of a Christmas-dinner. It was made by boiling beef or mutton with broth, thickened with brown bread; when half-boiled, raisins, currants, prunes, cloves, mace and ginger were added, and when the mess had been thoroughly boiled, it was sent to table with the best meats. Sir. Roger de Coverley thought there was some hope of a dissenter, when he saw him enjoy his porridge at the hall on Christmas-day. Plum-broth figures in Poor Robin's Almanac for 1750, among the items of Christmas fare, and Mrs. Frazer, 'sole teacher of the art of cookery in Edinburgh, and several years 'colleague, and afterwards successor to Mrs. M'Iver,' who published a cookery-book in 1791, thought it necessary to include plum-pottage among her soups. Brand partook of a tureenful of 'luscious plum-porridge' at the table of the royal chaplain in 1801, but that is the latest appearance of this once indispensable dish of which we have any record.

         As to plum-pudding, we are thoroughly at fault. Rabisha gives a recipe in his Whole Body of Cookery Dissected (1675), for a pudding to be boiled in a basin, which bears a great resemblance to our modern Christmas favorite, but does not include it in his bills of fare for winter, although 'a dish of stewed broth, if at Christmas,' figures therein. It shared honours with the porridge in Addison's time, however, for the Tatter tells us: 'No man of the most rigid virtue gives offence by an excess in plum-pudding or plum-porridge, because they are the first parts of the dinner;' but the Mrs. Frazer above mentioned is the earliest culinary authority we find describing its concoction, at least under the name of 'plumb-pudding.'
 Robert Chambers' Book of Days, 1869

Allegra McEvedy's Christmas 'plumb porridge'
The history of 'plumb porridge' at Christmas

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