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‘Tis the time of year for sugar plums — cue “the Nutcracker” and “The Night Before Christmas.” I hate to be the one to break this to you, but no plums are harmed in their making. Nor are plums a part of the traditional British plum, or Christmas, pudding; the name actually dates from a pre-Victorian time when “plums” were a term for raisins. Charles Dickens at first reviles the dish in “A Christmas Carol”: “If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!" He later relents at the Cratchit’s — though he calls it “like a speckled cannon ball.” The Brits, it seems, have a love-hate relationship with pudding.And names, it appears, are often not reflective of actual ingredients. Canary pudding doesn’t contain canaries. (Yes; it’s merely yellow.) Figgy pudding (Christmas again) does contain figs, but figgy dowdy doesn’t. So confusing can all this be that there’s even a website to sort it all out: greatbritishpuddings.com.
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