Come November and the feel of cold air, new year’s diaries & calendars on display in shops act like a timer that a Gregorian calendar year is coming to an end. But wait… there is a lot of funfair before welcoming the New Year!
Let’s start with a traditional activity – Stir-up Sunday (fondly known as fruit soaking ceremony), celebrated 4 / 5 weeks before Christmas. On this day, Christian families have a get together to make a pudding where everyone gives the mixture a stir from east to west with a wooden spoon and make a wish while doing so. The mixture consists of 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles.
This pudding became popular as English Christmas pudding or the Plum Pudding which is boiled often in a pudding cloth to give a round shape and decorated with a sprig of Holly. Brandy or other alcohol is also poured over the pudding and lit at the table for a spectacular display! This custom in medieval England took its final form in Victorian England where the batter is poured into a basin for steaming, followed by unwrapping the pudding, placing it on a platter and decorating the top with a sprig of Holly.
With time, many households have their own signature recipe for Christmas Pudding, some handed down as legacy through families for generations. The ceremony is an occasion to cherish memories and strengthen relationships.
These days, it has become fashionable to have a fruit soaking ceremony in Hotels and premium class restaurants. It strengthens social and professional camaraderie Team Zoompondy visited Atithi Hotel, Pondicherry, to meet Mr. Senthil, the Sous-Chef of Chef Padmanabhan to learn more about how Atithi organises this day. Mr. Senthil is from Madurai with 10 years of experience. He specialises in party and barbeque.
Sous-Chef Senthil explained that each year they soak chopped dry fruits like cherry, raisins, apricot, black currant, dry ginger powder, skin of orange, figs, cashew nuts, prunes, tutti-fruity etc. in wine, rum, whisky and brandy – the spirits of the season – to give an exotic aroma to the pudding. Atithi invites its staff, in-house guests, valued customers, business partners and friends to help the Executive Chef Padmanabhan in mixing. Coins are hidden in the ingredients for people to find it for fun and frolic. With gloved hands, apron and caps, the participants share smiles, anecdotes and stories as their hands toil mixing the dry fruits followed by adding liquor to it. Once the mixture is done well, it is transferred into casks to soak, ferment and mature. There were lots of ‘click’ sound from cameras and mobiles to capture some of these treasured moments.
“By 11th Dec. making of 350kgs of the pudding begins”, said Sous Chef Senthil, “A small fraction of the final product weighing about 500gms each will be on sale in Atithi’s cafeteria while the rest will be gifted away.” He also said that instead of steaming the dough one can bake it like a cake.
Without the Christmas or Plum Pudding, which is served at the end, the typical traditional British Christmas Dinner is incomplete.
These days, whether one enjoys a British Dinner or not, one definitely waits for a bite of Christmas Pudding / Cake. Therefore in spite of the availability of various cakes / puddings these days, the traditional Christmas Pudding / Cake has its unique place reserved on the menu.
Image Credit : http://media.npr.org/, http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/, Hotel Atithi