This part of the country was settled by the English in colonial times, and many of us are descended from those original Brits.  A series of recent articles deal with the question, “When did we lose the British accent?” And the answer, supposedly, is that the British themselves changed their accent and the original colonists sounded more like us. Unfortunately, there are no recordings of George Washington’s voice to use as a comparison.

Zac McDorr is the founder of the Bath Maine History Center on Facebook.You can reach him at [email protected]

People in New England still drink hot tea from time to time, but we have dispensed with some of the olde English Christmas traditions, such as the yule log, wassailing, mumming, and yule singing. Another tradition that we have rejected, for better or worse, is the Christmas pudding. We may enjoy singing about figgy pudding, but we don’t eat it.

My American vision of pudding involves the chocolate stuff that used to be hawked on TV by a disgraced former comedian.  But our simple pudding pales in comparison to the complex Yorkshire, blood, and plum puddings of our friends across the pond. Why limit your ingredients to chocolate and vanilla when your pudding could include suet, meat, raisins, currants, dates, orange peel, and lots of alcohol?  As one wag described it, plum pudding is like a combination of fruitcake and haggis, set on fire.

According to History.com, the roots of plum pudding go back to medieval sausages, which contained fat, meat, dried fruit, grains, and vegetables. A plum pottage was often served at the beginning of a meal, with “plum” referring to raisins or any dried fruit (most plum puddings don’t contain actual plums.)  Plum pudding had become associated with Christmas by the 1600s, and was therefore banned, along with every other Christmas tradition, by the original killjoy, Oliver Cromwell.  Fortunately, the monarchy was soon restored, along with the Christmas pudding.

The inspiration for this column came from my annual reading of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”  In one amusing scene, Bob Cratchet’s wife boils a Christmas pudding in a washtub.  After suffering extreme anxiety about whether the pudding may have come out badly, or even been stolen from the back yard, Mrs. Cratchet finds that her pudding is a steaming triumph that smells of fruit and laundry soap. One advantage of Plum pudding is that it is boiled instead of baked, which was good for poorer people who didn’t own ovens.  It also required no refrigeration, as the high alcohol content kept it from spoiling.  Indeed, plum pudding is apparently best when it has been aged for several weeks or months.  Some people make it a year in advance.  This allowed the stuff to be shipped from England to the colonies so that the colonists could enjoy the taste of home at Christmastime.

It might be fair to say that Americans did not give up on plum pudding entirely.  Instead, it evolved into the fruitcake that we know today.  Like pudding, a fruitcake is loaded with dried fruits and alcohol.  It is better when aged at least a month, and it lasts a long time.  And it is firmly associated with Christmas.  According to the Swiss Colony fruitcake website, fruitcakes are a $100 million dollar business in the United States.  Nobody wants to get one, and few people admit eating them.  But millions of them sell every year.

As much as I love tradition, I think I’ll stick with the eggnog.

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