Thanksgiving Pudding: What's Your Pleasure?
My dear friend, Miz B., who moved to this country from her native Britain 14 years ago, refers to all desserts as "pudding." Although it took me a while to get used to her choice of nomenclature, I've come to prefer it over the word "sweets," which really, in my opinion, should be used only when referring to candy.
But at the end of the meal, the choice of word is irrelevant (and it gets really confusing if you read the history books); what's important, particularly with regards to Thanksgiving, is that a sweet ending exists after all that hard labor plowing through stuffing, gravy and mashed tubers. Thanksgiving just isn't the same without dessert, I mean pudding.
By the time the British colonists arrived in 1620, they were already eating "pye." To wit, a few lines from a poem by 17th century poet William King:
Of all the delicates which Britons try
To please the palate of delight the eye,â€¨
Of all the sev'ral kings of sumptuous far,â€¨
There is none that can with applepie compare.
The apples at the time of Plymouth Rock were more like crab apples, and it would be many years before seeds and pollinating honeybees that were imported from England would yield orchards and an apple-eating culture on this side of the Atlantic.
Chances were better that you'd eat a "pye" of stewed pumpkin, sweet potatoes or persimmons, native to North American soil and known as the "putchamin."
By 1796, when Amelia Simmons published "American Cookery," there were recipes for apple pie as well as "Marlborough Pudding," a pie of stewed apples, sherry and cream.
And our native fruit, the cranberry, seems to have appeared in pie as early as 1672, according to "Giving Thanks," by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and the Plimoth Plantation.
History plays more of a role in Thanksgiving pudding than I ever realized. All those classics -- apple, cranberry, mincemeat, pumpkin -- have deep roots, which further underscores the importance of dessert (I mean, pudding) on the table this Thursday.
So what's your pudding pleasure? And does it have to be pie to feel like Thanksgiving? Do you steer in the direction of the colonial classics -- or do you prefer the 20th-century notion of a pecan pie (which apparently did not become popular until the 1920s in places like Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, where pecans grow)?
Over the years, I've been known to dabble, experimenting with all the classics as well as post-modern twists.
In the pumpkin department, I've done pie with silken tofu as well as with a luscious topping of streuseled pecans. I've done bread pudding, too. Yesterday's Food section offers up a tart marrying pumpkin with pecans and buttermilk.
If you haven't had enough cranberry sauce, America's native fruit figures beautifully into Thanksgiving's final course. I've had great results with Emily Luccheti's upside down cranberry pumpkin cake, which I am tempted to make again this year. It is so gorgeous it makes everyone blush and ask for more. Cranberries are also wonderful in crisp, with apples, and lead the way in a cream cheesey tart.
Now, I'll stop here, because I need your help. I'm fresh out of tried-and-true pecan pie recipes or details for other southern pie classics, such as sweet potato or buttermilk. Let's make this a Thanksgiving pudding party -- and let the recipe exchange begin!
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