As a North American, I think of pudding as a thickened custard-like dessert that you eat with a spoon. To an English person, pudding is something else, generally meaning a steamed cake-like dessert served in a ramekin, or inverted onto a dish.
One of my favourites is sticky toffee pudding: deep, dark, date-based cake served warm with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. In Vancouver, Burgoo does a decent version of it, except that it’s a little bit too sweet. In 2006, Haagen Dazs held a contest to develop a new ice cream flavour, and sticky toffee pudding was the winner. Now, I’m not usually a fan of ice cream with “stuff” in it, but I lurrrrve Haagen Dazs sticky toffee pudding ice cream. I’m so glad that it has been upgraded to a permanent flavour.
Then there’s traditional Christmas pudding: heavy, dense, spicy, sweet steamed pudding. It’s made with a variety of fruits and spices, but also with a heavy dose of suet (read: beef fat). I have unpleasant memories of my hotel days, making a week’s worth of Christmas puddings for the holiday buffet. Have you ever seen ten pounds of beef fat go into a recipe? It ain’t pretty.
So, I’m less a fan of eating Christmas pudding, but I love the ritual and tradition surrounding it. It’s not a dessert that you can throw together at the last minute – it requires planning, care and time, and makes you appreciate how much work it takes to create something. Also, there’s a great detail about burying a coin or toy in the pudding – if you get the hidden treasure in your serving, it’s supposed to bring you good luck.