Pudding time is a special time, anticipated by children and enjoyed by all. It follows a meal, extends the ambiance and is often the highlight of the occasion. "The time when pudding or puddings are to be had; a time when a person is in luck; a favourable or useful time" (Oxford English Dictionary(3rd ed.,) Somewhat cynically it has been used to describe the action of a politician who arrives at a meeting following the hard debate, just in time to partake in the sweet period when a decision has been reached.
When we think about special occasions and fine desserts that provide a sweet ending to a marvelous meal our thoughts turn to a mental menu of pies, cakes and ice cream. Why not pudding?
In England, pudding is a broad term that describes many kinds of desserts, including pies, tarts, custards, steamed puddings, and ice cream. In America, puddings have come to be associated with snacks, custards or mousse in little plastic cups , or with a mix that comes from a box. Let's change this. Puddings can be the crowning highlight to a special occasion meal -as they once were.
Plate your Pud!
To start, choose an absolutely delicious pudding- there is no end to your choices. Next, plate the pudding to appeal to the senses of smell ( add berries or sauce if needed), to the visual senses ( used complimentary or contrasting colors, and to the touch ( using cold ice cream with a hot pudding, of a crunchy topping to contrast with a smooth sponge, a tangy lemon custard to balance candied berries)
To make pudding time the highlight, we can take notes from literature where a novel builds to a climax, where the everything that proceeds- the setting, the conversations, the multiple stages of the meal, tease our senses. Perhaps, we could look to the theater, where we know in advance that there will be a finale, a last act. It is announced. Rather than just setting the dessert on the table, have an intermission following the meal. Then announce that it is "pudding time" or "dessert time", just prior to being asked"what is for dessert?" The anticipation is heightened if the answer is unknown. Or as my mother used to say, "you will have to wait to find out."
Clear the dinner plates first, to create a break and to let your guests know that something more is coming. Choose a pudding to complement the meal. A zingy lemon pudding to accent the previous course, a ginger pudding to tingle the senses. Present each serving on a special plate, to the table set to receive it.
There is nothing more dramatic than first turning down the lights and parading a heated , brandy drenched, flaming dessert to the table. The traditional Christmas plum pudding- also known figgy pudding presented in a manner, as Charles Dickens described the entrance of Mrs Cratchit's "cannon ball"- the highlight of the meal.