Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Houston Steve, trotting out his British roots, has shared with me this little gem from Mrs. Beeton, the Ur-Authority on nineteenth-century English household management and author of (appropriately enough) Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

The Book of Household Management was not simply an early model of The Joy of Cooking; it was the Compleat Guide to running a Victorian household, a task that required knowledge not only of food preparation, but of fashion, child care, animal husbandry, first aid, science, religion, and the management of household servants. (Warming up Teevee Dinners was not, at the time, a valued element of the skill set.)

Mrs. Beeton, alas, succumbed to childbed fever at the tender age of 28, the preventative measure of having obstetricians wash their hands with chlorinated lime solution not having been included in her (otherwise useful) book. One can only imagine her reaction had she lived to see modern conveniences such as the motorized pneumatic vacuum cleaner, invented 36 years after her death. Or the Electrical Servant Whip and Urinary Regulator.

But Houston Steve was mainly interested in showing me this bit about suet pudding. Suet puddings, both savory and desserty, are an integral part of the British dining experience even unto this day. In the fullness of time, I have even tasted of several varieties: Christmas pudding (a forebear of the American seasonal fruitcake, but much more appetizing), Spotted Dog, drowned baby, and of course the savory (and familiar to many) Yorkshire pudding.

The particular suet pudding in question, owing to its especially bland list of ingredients, seems to have been designed as a basic starchy filler... and the postscriptum by Mrs. Beeton emphasizes that point...

from Mrs Beeton’s Meat Recipes Revisited
Suet Pudding, to serve with Roast Meat

450 g (1 lb) Flour
285 ml (½ pint) Milk or Water
170 g (6 oz) Suet, finely chopped
½ saltspoon Salt
½ saltspoon Pepper

Mix the suet well with the flour. Add the salt and pepper and make into a smooth paste with the milk or water. Tie the pudding in a floured cloth, or put it into a buttered basin. Boil from 2½ to 3 hours.

To enrich it, substitute 3 beaten eggs for some of the milk or water and increase the proportion of suet.

Time: 2½ to 3 hours.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

Note: When there is a joint roasting or baking, this pudding may be boiled in a long shape and then cut into slices a few minutes before dinner is served: these slices should be laid in the dripping pan for a minute or two and then browned before the fire.

Most children like this accompaniment to roast meat. Where there is a large family of children and the means of keeping them are limited, it is a most economical plan to serve up the pudding before the meat: as, in this case, the consumption of the latter article will be much smaller than it otherwise would be.

In other words, fill up with bread, kids! It’s cheaper!

Roger Waters be damned (or at least paraphrased), then: “How can you have any meat if you don’t eat your pudding?”

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