It was a culinary triumph. My hosts do not spend much time in the UK, and are determined to entertain stylishly during their visits. This Christmas they succeeded, blending tradition and radicalism.
The planning began in Pall Mall on the third lunching-day in advent. We addressed the major strategic question: satiation. After bird plus pud, there is barely the energy to fall asleep in front of an old film and the rest of the day can be unsatisfactory. In recent years, I have noticed a tendency to deal with this problem by de-fanging the pudding. There is a new girlie-man breed of Christmas puds which lack the embrandied pomp of previous generations. In my friends’ case, this was not an option. Granny, a sprightly nonagenarian, was o/c pudding and even Hitler had failed to disrupt her preparations. She remembers haggling over wartime rations to maintain the integrity of a recipe that was already decades old. The family believe that it originated in Windsor Castle. It is certainly a Pickwickian creation.
All that glisters is not gold. This glisterer was a gleaming pudding, which went into the mixing bowl 12 months earlier, once the previous one’s Victorian sixpences had been ransomed from the children. (This time, exchanging them for pound coins, they probably got a bad bargain.) During the year, its progress was regularly inspected. Granny is as keen on refreshers as any Queen’s Counsel, though hers are in good cognac, not guineas. By Chrismas Day, caution was necessary for the flambé-ing, lest the entire glorious spectacle should turn into a red-hot fireball. So no concessions on the pudding front, and the roast goose of Old England would precede it to the table.
There was a radical solution: to move the main meal until the evening and base luncheon on fish.