This story was sent to us by Allison.
K.B. and I [Allison] bonded over many things, but in terms of intensity, nothing comes close to our obsession with British-style steamed puddings. K.B., as everyone knows, was a talented baker; what may be news to some was that she had also developed an interest in mastering the art of making delicious steamed puddings.
I was delighted when I found out that my friend shared my passion for steamed puddings. I grew up in Newfoundland, where steamed puds were a mainstay of the traditional cuisine in many fishing communities. Since I had moved to “the mainland,” I had not encountered anyone else who had eaten or made these tasty desserts…until K.B. and I happened to start talking about them.
It turned out that K.B. had photocopied a bunch of recipes from a library copy of The Pudding Club Cookbook, a publication put out by a group of pudding aficionados in the United Kingdom. She loaned me her copies of these recipes, and I made photocopies of the copies. We exchanged thoughts on our pudding successes, and failures, and in person or over e-mail shared information on the arcana of pudding-making (which are better, recipes with bread crumbs or flour? what exactly *is* “mixed spice”? which type of pudding mold is best, and how can one obtain this obscure—in Canada—piece of kitchen equipment?).
A few years ago at Christmas, K.B. was clearly very eager to see my reaction to her gift for me. We were heading back to her apartment after some Saturday afternoon tea and I could tell she was getting more and more excited the closer we got to her apartment building. When we got inside her apartment, she handed me a wrapped package which was clearly a book. When I opened it up, I found a copy of The Pudding Club Cookbook…but not just any copy.
As K.B. rapidly, giddily explained, this was a second-hand copy she had found for sale on-line, and when it arrived, she saw that inside there was an inscription that indicated that the previous owner had been Thelma L. Carlile, who purchased a copy of the cookbook while at a meeting of the Pudding Club in the Cotswolds. K.B. had looked into who Thelma L. Carlile was and found out that she was an American cookbook author! She knew how thrilled I would be to have a copy of a pudding cookbook with this kind of provenance, and we nearly danced around her apartment in delight over this find. It was yet another example of how much happiness she took in making other people happy.
I had always intended to order a copy of Thelma L. Carlile’s Mealtimes and Memories but only got around to doing so after K.B. passed away. I found it on a second-hand bookselling website a couple of months ago and it arrived after a long trip from the United States. I so wish I could show K.B. the book; she would love to see where our shared fascination with steamed puddings and cookbooks had taken us.
The first recipe I made from Mealtime and Memories was for persimmon pudding. It was delicious, and while I watched our guests consume it with pleasure, I thought of K.B., and was grateful for her generosity.
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