Here's the 2nd part of my history with learning about, making and eating Christmas puddings as a New Yorker married to the loveliest of all Welsh woman.
My first Pudding:
That first winter together, I was able to help make the puddings. I was blown away by the amount of work it was. I knew it took eight hours to steam, but I didn’t know it took almost as long to prepare them: painstakingly chopping the nuts and trying to slice the dried fruit into microscopic pieces. Not easy! I was ready to toss out the fruit and throw in some jelly as filler instead when Sacha had turned her back! I think she might have noticed, so I scrapped that plan, and continued with the task. At least I was rewarded during the “Adding Of The Booze” – eight ounces of stout for the pudding, eight ounces for me. A shot of whiskey for the pudding, a shot for me. Repeat, and then repeat again. I could get used to this kind of baking! Once the puddings and I were well pickled, we stirred them for a half hour until all the goodness was mixed into an incredible smelling mass of deliciousness. The next day, we steamed them half the day while I watched footie and Sacha worked on making her varied homemade organic skin salves for an upcoming holiday craft fair. They came out looking perfect, and we spent the entire next day portioning them out into individual containers, sewing fabric to cover them and designing a label. Three full days from start to finish, and I had a blast the entire time.
Three weeks later, I attended my first of Sacha’s Winter Solstice parties, always on the closest Friday to the Solstice, Sach had hosted one annually for the past fifteen years. Here, all the locals from the East Village of NYC and the multitude of friends she had acquired over the years met, listened to old time jazz and swing music, danced and toasted the holidays. For several hours, we steamed the Gargantuan Pudding and awaited the lighting. Around midnight, Sach gave me the cue and I put on Louis Armstrong’s “Zat’ You Santa Claus?”, everyone gathered into the living room of our railroad-style apartment, and out came Sacha with a saucepan filled of heated-up liquor. Amidst the circle of friends, she lit a match to the whiskey and the blue flame alit. With the pudding on a plate on the floor, she seductively danced around its perimeter, pouring the blazing booze over, while our friends whooped and cheered her on. The usually quiet and reserved Sacha had morphed into a Master of Ceremonies I may not have recognized, but loved and applauded. This was her tradition, and after this one perfect evening, it had become mine as well.
To be continued: