Saturday Surprise — Puds and Cacti

If it’s Saturday morning, then it must be time for Saturday Surprise, yes?  Last night, I traveled ‘round the globe (without leaving my chair!) looking for something with which to regale you, and I found a couple!


The Pudding Club …

You know how sometimes you can go through life without ever having heard of something, and then all of a sudden twice in a period of days you hear of it?  Such a thing happened to me this week.  Our friend David mentioned something called ‘cheese-rolling’, and when I asked him what the heck that was, he sent me a link.  In a nutshell, somebody throws a big ball of cheese from the top of a very steep hill, and the contestants go chasing after it, most often tumbling down the hill, head-over-heels.  Okay, and then yesterday I got an email from Atlas Obscura about a restaurant, Three Ways House, famous for its puddings, and also in the Cotswold area noted for its cheese-rolling!  I’ve never heard of cheese-rolling until this very week, and now it’s been mentioned twice in a span of about 3 days!

Here … check out the cheese-rolling for yourself …

Now, about Three Ways House.  In 1985, fed up with the sad dessert trolleys so common in hotel restaurants at the time, the then-owners of Three Ways House eschewed the typical black forest cake and fruit salads. Instead, they got a group of friends together to eat inordinate amounts of pudding. These Friday night feasts became tradition, and so the Pudding Club was born.

Now, I have friends on both sides of the pond, but I have only recently discovered that North Americans and Brits do not mean the same thing when they say “pudding”.  To us on this side of the pond, pudding is a smooth, creamy, custard-like sweet dessert made with sugar, cornstarch, milk, and flavouring … most often chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch.

choc-pudding

To the Brits, however, pudding can mean many things.

The Pudding Club has a self-proclaimed mission of preserving the “great British pudding.” In Britain, a pudding is a dish traditionally made with suet, or hardened animal fat, along with flour and fruit for sweetness. Then, it’s steamed for several hours. This type of pudding can be sweet or savory, but the word can also apply to dessert in general.  Confused yet?

Orange Christmas pudding (left) and Rhubarb Steamed pudding

These look more like a very moist cake to me, but the sweet ones definitely look worth a try.  I didn’t think a savory steamed pudding would be appealing, but the one on the right, at least, actually looks pretty good.  I do not have an adventurous palate, as the Japanese associates always told me when I worked at Honda.  Most things I will try at least once, unless they stink or are slimy.

Steak and Ale suet pudding (left) and Steak and Mushroom pudding

Lucy Williams is the assistant manager and Pudding Master of Three Ways House, seen here announcing the puddings of the night.Lucy-WilliamsIt’s Williams who decides which puddings are served every Friday. Positively obsessed by pudding, she’s protective of its place at the Three Ways House. She’s also a purist, often consulting the definitive tome on the subject, Regula Ysewjin’s Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings, Savoury and Sweet.  Who knew?

Recipe photography

Yorkshire pudding

The Three Ways House is a small hotel, and seven of the rooms are pudding-themed.  There’s the Spotted Dick room (I’m not even going to ask), the Summer Pudding room, and a Chocolate Suite, where everything from the bathroom tiles to the cushions on the bed look like chocolates.Three-Ways-HouseOn Friday nights, Pudding Club nights, there are seven different puddings presented, and at the end of the night, each guest fills out a score sheet, voting for the top dessert of the evening.  The Club has earned worldwide acclaim and has even been invited to bring their puddings to New York and Tokyo!  I don’t see how anybody could possibly eat all seven, but then I could only eat about half of one anyway.  Still, it sounds like fun, don’t you think?


More than you wanted to know about … Cactus!

Moving from puddings to cacti, I bet you didn’t know that they have their own fan club!  It’s called the Crested Saguaro Society, a group of amateur naturalists bound by one mission: to find and document all of Arizona’s fasciated saguaros.  Founded by Bob Cardell and Pat Hammes back in 2006, its members trek across the northern patch of the Sonoran Desert, where they’ve logged everything from specimens that split like a whale tail to ones that resemble gangly candelabras.candelabra-cactus.jpgOn a normal saguaro, accordion-like pleats run vertically up its base, tracing the ribs like mountain ranges. But on a cristate, things get funky. Its “growing tip”—the apical meristem, in technical terms—flattens and elongates. The saguaro’s pleats split chaotically, forcing them closer together until they crimp, at times warping the trunk so it spirals. As the pleats smush together, they cause the plant’s growing tip to fan. The final result is a rippled crest as unique as a fingerprint.

Saguaros, icons of the American Southwest, are protected by the Arizona government. But poachers still manage to snatch the cacti from public lands. The slow-growing plants—it takes upwards of 75 years for an arm to form—can go for about $100 per foot on the black market. Again, who knew? Crested saguaros, because of their alien-ness, are particularly enticing.

cactus.jpgThey are rather fascinating to look at, but I don’t think I would like to spend time trekking around the desert looking for them.

cactus-2cactus-3cactus-4

I like this last one, for it makes me think it’s flipping the bird at someone.


And on that note, I wrap up with a wish that you all have a safe and fun weekend, my friends!

weekend

42 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Puds and Cacti

  1. My Gram used to make a Plum Pudding for Christmas dinner started several weeks before the holiday, I believe it had to do with the brandy in it aging or some such thing. It resembled the Orange Christmas pudding pictured. That tradition fell by the wayside in my generation. The other puddings here do not entice me at all. I must say that cheese-rolling sounds like a rather odd sport, why not just roll a ball instead? Love the Saguaros! They sound like the perfect plant for me…I need ones that can survive in spite of me, not because of me. Thank-you!

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    • My grandmother used to make fruitcake at Christmas, and just like with yours and her Plum Pudding, she started in the fall, make the fruitcakes, then wrapped them in cheesecloth soaked in brandy. I grew up being one of the few people in the world who actually likes fruitcake because of that. 🙂

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  2. The word ‘Pudding’ is actually a very old word with German origins. It was originally used to describe a meat that was stuffed into a casing made from entrails (the skin of a sausage). Black pudding may have started this way. Later, in the 17th century, it became fashionable to make different types of sponges with dried fruit and suet, tie the mixture in a bag, and boil or steam them over water for several hours. This cooks the flour and dry ingredients but keeps everything moist and just a little bit gooey. Christmas pudding and Spotted Dick, as well as Treacle Sponge tend to be made this way.

    I think that other puddings (Yorkshire Pudding is made from the same ingredients as English pancake batter), were so named, because they had to cook in liqid fat in a deep space (like a muffin pan) to hold everything together.

    I suppose over time, Brits tended to associate ‘pudding’ as what people ate after a main meal. It is only recently within the last few decades, that we began to differentiate dessert, with the access to a greater variety of fruits, dairy, ices, etc.

    We Brits, still tend to say “What’s for pudding?” rather than “What’s for dessert?”

    I love the pudding hotel idea, but don’t think I could manage 7 puddings!!!😉

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    • Who knew? Thanks for that background, for I had no idea. No, I know I would be lucky to eat one, let alone 7!!! One writer wrote that he had stayed in the Chocolate Pudding suite and even the ceilings were done in the pattern of chocolate bars. I think I would wake up hungry and craving chocolate!

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    • Good one, Keith! Puddin’ on the Ritz! 😄 Quite likely you are right … my mind works in strange ways these days! Just so happened that both of these were covered in the email from Atlas Obscura, and I seized the moment!

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  3. Obviously I do not come from British heritage, though the rhubarb pudding would interest me. Rhubarb and me go way back. Interestingly, though, it was only last year that we did not pick the rhubarb from the plant, and it grew up over 7 feet tall. Once the leaves at the bottom died in the first frost, the plant kept growing, and I would not have recognized it as rhubarb if it was growing exactly where the rhubarb plant was supposed to be. Kind of like if you let asparagus gtow out, you won’t recognise it if you come across it full grown.
    The saguaros are cute, but they must take human lifetimes to take the shapes you posted. Wonder what a bonsai saguaro might look like.

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    • Not being possessed of a green thumb — plants die if I even look at them — I likely wouldn’t know rhubarb if I saw it growing. So, you grow your own? I did not care for rhubarb until just a few years ago when I tried it once again and found the flavour quite to my liking.

      The saguaros, I think, take something like 75 years just to grow one offshoot, so I imagine some, like that ‘candelabra’ one, have been around for hundreds of years. A bonsai saguaro … hmmm … interesting thought. I wonder if there is such a thing?

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