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.
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.It’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?
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.On 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.On 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.
They are rather fascinating to look at, but I don’t think I would like to spend time trekking around the desert looking for them.
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!