Today, November 15th …
On this day in 1918, a few days after the armistice, there was a mood of cautious elation in Britain. The relief was tempered with a sense of the awesome responsibility of feeding Europe, and the ordinary British housewife was reminded that shortages would continue for a while. The ordinary British housewife at that time must have had her mind firmly focussed on her own imminent responsibility to provide a Christmas pudding for her family - shortages and difficulties notwithstanding. Sensibly, the authorities made some concessions to the season, and over the space of a few days, announcements were made about some essential Christmas ingredients.
A maximum price for all eggs (except plovers’ eggs and gulls’ eggs) was set, although the customer was reminded that “in most cases, dried eggs will have to be used” in the pudding. The increased sugar ration would, it was hoped, offset this dreary persistence of egg powder. Bread was to become whiter, with a smaller substraction of the grain allowed (the browner, wholemealier, healthier wartime bread was not universally adored by Britons). Another “pleasing announcement” which would give “immense sentimental satisfaction” was that an effort would be made to import supplies of apples, oranges and other fruits and nuts, “so that Christmas may be a more agreeable festival”. This extra fruit was important, for although “about 12,500 tons of currants, raisins and sultanas will be released for Christmas”, for practical purposes this translated to only a limited quantity of dried fruit per family. The pudding cook was advised that “This dried fruit deficiency can, however, be made good by the addition of apples, of which there will shortly be a large quantity on the market.”
The official pudding promoted by the Ministry of Food in 1918 was the previous year’s recipe recycled, but with a new name. “Peace Christmas Pudding” (which “could not aspire to pre-war richness”) included carrots to help the apples help the dried fruit deficiency, and treacle to help the sugar deficiency and help disguise the flavour of the dreaded egg powder. At least the bread was white. And with what joy it must have been eaten!
Peace Christmas Pudding.
(large enough for six)
4 oz flour, 4 oz soaked bread, 6 oz chopped suet, ½ teas salt, 1 dessert spoonful mixed spice, 4 oz sultanas, 2 oz mixed chopped peel, ½ lb apples, 2 oz grated carrot, 1 egg (dried), ½ gill milk, 2 oz treacle, grated rind and juice half a lemon
Weigh out and measure all the ingredients. Prepare the dry materials and put them in a mixing bowl, stir all well together, then add the egg and milk. When thoroughly mixed, put the mixture into two well-greased basins, cover each with a cloth and boil or steam for fully three hours.
A previous Story for this Day …
On November 15th 2005 the story was about the Italian Futurists and vermicelli al pomodoro.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Some rather expensive wine.
Quotation for the Day …
Christmas is a season of such infinite labour, as well as expense in the shopping and present-making line, that almost every woman I know is good for nothing in purse and person for a month afterwards, done up physically, and broken down financially
Fanny Kemble (1809–1893)