More Than Just a Plum Pudding

For as long as I can remember, my maternal grandmother,  Mildred Maclean (“DD” to me), would make the plum pudding for our Christmas dinner.  (Post about DD.) A few years ago, when she was well into her 90s, I took over the role of plum pudding maker.  I now make the pudding, bolstered by my […]

More Than Just a Plum Pudding

For as long as I can remember, my maternal grandmother,  Mildred Maclean (“DD” to me), would make the plum pudding for our Christmas dinner.  (Post about DD.) A few years ago, when she was well into her 90s, I took over the role of plum pudding maker.  I now make the pudding, bolstered by my grandmother’s notes, delivered to me in a cute little journal she bought for the purpose, as well as my good friend, The Joy of Cooking.  At first there was bit of a learning curve and a getting over the knowledge of the actual not so healthy ingredients for this incredibly delicious concoction.  I also had to learn about steaming puddings, which is quite a production, but not hard once I got the hang of it and had the right tools.

You can see from the accompanying photo, that the pudding is ceremoniously served flaming, after letting it hang out in brandy or rum for several weeks and then giving it a good douse just before the flame hits.  It’s quite a sight.  And then the exquisite taste sensations follow, when the pudding is served accompanied by the delectable soft rum sauce.  This is a mutli-dimensional food experience, one which does affect several of the different types of energy I have been blogging about.  Two blog posts ago, I made the observation that eating really isn’t always just about managing physical energy; there is usually an emotional component, maybe a mental and often a spiritual component.  Having just made, served and eaten several helpings of pudding in recent weeks (it keeps well as a leftover too, amazing! :)), pudding was top of mind for me as an example of food that is more than just managing physical energy.  So let’s take a quick look at this pudding experience more closely, shall we?

Spiritual energy, to remind us, is about acting in harmony with one’s deepest values and about feeling a connection to something greater than oneself.  So, in this case, making, serving and eating the pudding, does have a spiritual component for me on several levels.  Making it makes me feel like I am contributing something special and significant to our family.  The recipe makes two good sized puddings so there is always enough for my nuclear family and one for my extended family – this gives me the connection to something larger.  On the values side, I place great importance on my capacity to love and be loved – in other words, it’s all about loving connection for me.  Making the pudding makes me feel connected to my grandmother, especially when I go over her careful hand-written notes to me or call her for a quick bit of advice.  I also feel more connected to my mother who is often hosting many people at Christmas-time and feels grateful to me for making the pudding.  Finally, I receive the gratitude from the rest of my family members, which boosts my positive emotions (giving me emotional energy).

I should say that, this year, as I often do, I had the negative conversations with myself about not having enough time, leaving it too late (should be done about a month in advance), and general grumpy scrooginess about how much work Christmas is.     These are draining conversations – ever had any like this? 🙂  And to boot, when I finally got around to it, I realized I had actually forgotten to buy the “plums” – the raisins  – and had to run out down to the store to get some to mix into the already prepared batter.  This was after I had already sent my son down to get more flour – we were low on that too.  However, when I open myself up to the bigger picture, as I wrote about above, I am able to shift gears and become energized, rather than frustrated by, the experience and the task itself.  I managed to accomplish this shifting of gears after a few deep slow breaths, upon returning with the raisins and stirring them into the batter.

So making, serving and eating the pudding is an annual ritual that contributes to my managing of my spiritual energy –    if I allow it to, if I am open to it.  It does fill me up spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally.  It nourishes my soul, so to speak.  You could really call it the “pudding of love”.   This all being said, we can find easily the spiritual and emotional components in everyday food experiences if we look.  For example, I think this way in terms of soup that I make and serve to my family too – a big bowl of love served up piping hot.  Gathering family or friends together to eat can beautifully create this effect, regardless of what is being served – even cereal for dinner.  I have a friend who bakes up goodies to take to work to the team she manages – from what I can tell, this fuels everyone involved spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically.     (Have a look at this inspiring book, The Family Dinner by Laurie David, if you want ideas.) What about you – what foods and circumstances serve this purpose for you and those around you, whether you have prepared them yourself or not?

As always, I love to receive your comments and ideas.

PS Upon reflection, I have realized that my statement: “Where I am at now, essentially, is that I see food as fuel for my body primarily and, as a far second, as something delicious, to be shared,  experimented with, etc.”  in this earlier post isn’t quite accurate.  The deliciousness, the sharing, the other experiences are very important to me too.  I am very focused on the healthiness of the food I eat, it is true, but I also do love to eat things that aren’t so healthy.  This approach offered, by Alice Domar in Self Nurture: Learning to Care For Yourself As Effectively As You Care For Everyone Else p. 134, when she talks of eating for comfort and pleasure, is a more appropriate guideline for me to keep in mind.    It’s the 80/20 plan –

“If 80 percent of the food we eat is nutritious – low to moderate sources of protein, including fish, chicken and dairy products; fresh fruits, vegetables beans and seeds; whole grains and breads – then we can allow ourselves to enjoy 20 percent that fall outside these categories.  In this manner, we can allow ourselves the comfort foods – chocolate chip cookies, cakes, ice cream, and chips – with far less guilt and a clear sense that we have not abandoned our physical health or betrayed our bodies.”      What about you? Does this work for you?

PPS Thank you to my assistant Rebecca who read this piece a few days ago and shared her insightful comments and editing assistance!

Author: Milisa Burns

Milisa Burns is a certified professional coach, former lawyer and married mother of three, with her own website:

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