I promised, in a post a few weeks ago on Christmasin Wales in the 18th C, to get back to the topic of “groat pudding.” I intended to find you a recipe – but, like soup and stew, the pudding is a concept rather than a formula. The nearest thing I found is to a set of instructions for making groat pudding (which may be closer to a pottage) in a story about the Scots version of this universal food concept, which I give you below.
But first – a brief aside. My path to the story on groat pudding gave me a lovely insight into how the names of foods become adapted when they reach a new customer base with a different native language. The story comes from All around the Wrekin (1860) by Walter White , a book about the “Black Country, ” an area of the English Midlands around the city of Birmingham.
and if you are curious in pears, you will pause at the stall labelled Danglems and Burgamys, and perhaps have to taste before you discover that the strange names are the Brummagem [Birmingham dialect] for D'Angouleme and Bergamot. In like manner Dusannes become Jews'-hands, and Bon-chretiens, Bong-grecians, and in shops about the town, as well as in the market-hall. Another curiosity noticeable in its season is 'groaty pudding,' a compound which I have never yet had the courage to taste.
And now, a short description of the Scots version of groat pudding (including instructions which will serve as our recipe for the day), and its role in society, from The laird and farmer, a dialogue upon farming, trade, cookery, and their method of living in Scotland, balanc'd with that of England, by the author of the Familiar catechism (1740.)
Trav. What is it you call Kell?
Scot. It is boiling Water and Groats (which is round Oat-meal) to which is sometimes added a little of Pease or Barly; there are also Greens (such as Cabbage or Sprouts) commonly put intot the Pot, which being boiled some Hours all together, is used as soon as cold.
Trav. Put you no Meat in it, such as Beef, Mutton, Veal, Lamb, Fowls, or any other Thing, to make your Kell savoury?
Scot. Not, that is not common, but with those of Circumstances some Degree better than laboring People.
Trav. Then be thankful that you can be satisfied with such Victualing, for I assure you of it, that many People could not support Nature with what you speak of, if they were even to perish for Want.
Scot. Perhaps what you say is Truth, but what I am to say to you is as much, namely, that our Circumstances will admit of no better Maintenance than what I have told you, and many not so good.
Trav. You may think so, but were I to live in your Country I have no doubt but I should save Money by living upon Victuals more to the Satisfaction of Nature, than it is possible you can do with this Kind of Food..
Scot. You must have more Money than I have mention'd as the Charge of my Maintenance