Yes, it’s that time of year. A tentative tap on your front door, you open it . . . and then stand there slightly embarrassed as a ragtaggle of festive troubadours launches into ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!’
By now, of course, you’re wishing you’d turned the telly up and pretended not to hear that knock. But, too late. You’re obliged to wait for the usually less-than-celestial choir to get to the punchline.
‘We all want some figgy pudding . . .’ and so on and on and on. Well, you’d gladly give them as much figgy pudding as it takes, just to send them on their way as quickly as possible. If only you had the faintest idea what exactly it was that they were demanding.
Figgy pudding? Which aisle in Waitrose would you find it? We’ve looked, couldn’t find it, and didn’t like to ask for fear of getting a funny look from the nice lady there. Instead, we took the safer option offered by Google. Apparently, it’s a savoury dish that dates back to the 16th century, when fig trees were commonplace in English gardens. So yes, it’s a pudding made out of figs. With a few things added, including alcohol, which lead to it being banned by the Puritans in Cromwell’s time.
But you can’t keep a good pudding down, and it popped up again in the 19th century, with figs being the main ingredient in the Christmas pudding recipes of Mrs Beeton. In this new identity as a ‘Christmas pudding’, its proudest moment was its appearance in the Charles Dickens classic 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 pastrycook’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 of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.”
Sadly, this was its last known appearance in print – or on anyone’s plate, as far as we can tell. However, there are various suggested recipes available online for old school ‘figgy puddings’. If you can spare the time from all the festive preparations, maybe you should have a go at making one.
It would be worth it just so that when the wassailers get to that bit about going nowhere till they’ve got their pud, you could whip the cover off your fig-festooned festive dish and watch their faces.
What exactly are wassailers anyway you ask? Let’s just leave it and wish you a silent night.
And, of course, all the very best from everyone here at Wordsworks Towers.