Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Calling all Brits

Several weeks ago I had a fabulous success after asking for help from my faithful readers on a problem that arose while I was cataloguing the panels in the International Honor Quilt project.  That cry for help was for translating or transliterating some Inuit words embroidered on a panel made in northern Quebec, and amazingly, within a couple of hours I had more than one volunteer!

Now I have another cry for help, but this one on the other side of the ocean.  I need someone more familiar with British culinary customs than I am.

This panel -- executed in beautiful needlepoint -- was made to honor Isabella Beeton, the famous early cookbook writer, and its centerpiece is this elaborate food fantasia.  The person who catalogued the panels 20 years ago thought it was a roast, but I don't, despite the lethally sharp knife in the background.  Is it some kind of Christmas pudding?  And what's the little white cloud of steam being emitted at top right?

I'll be wildly grateful for any help you can provide!


  1. I do hope that someone can furnish you with the correct answer because to me it looks like someone has put a Christmas tea cosy over a steak and kidney pie!


    I Googled her name. This site shows a picture of "puddings", and one of the pictures is very similar to the needlepoint.


    I also looked up England's definition of puddings.

    Good luck!

  4. You know I am not British (LOL) but I think it is a fig pudding decorated for Christmas. Am interested in seeing what someone with more familiarity says.

  5. You have had me intrigued all day. Really this is because the little puff of steam that seems deliberate. I wonder whether this is a kind of amalgam to represent Beeton, with the pudding representing both sweet and savoury. The carving tools stand for all the roasts, and the pudding of course stands for one of the many puddings - Christmas being most recognisable. The base of the pudding also reminds me of a version of a charlotte - and there were so many puddings then with decoration where the flowers are around the side, which would not really appear on a traditional Christmas pudding. So the pudding itself could be an amalgam of at least three kinds.
    Several puddings are steamed of course, including Christmas pudding, but the little puff of steam is perhaps your maker's nod to the anomaly of the steak and kidney pudding. Her private joke perhaps? And tying the pudding to the carving set.

  6. My husband, whose mother was English and cooked traditional English food, says it looks like a Christmas pudding to him. I did a google image search on "Christmas pudding," and judging from that, I'd say the white is frosting, the green is holly leaves, and the red is berries. Maybe the hatched design is a cake plate that the pudding is sitting on? Don't know about the white "cloud," unless frosting got on the table. I considered if it might somehow be connected with the tradition of hiding a coin in the pudding (for a lucky dinner guest), but can't figure out a connection.

    1. We don't put 'frosting' (icing) on Christmas pudding Penny! Pour custard over perhaps, but never icing!!

  7. I think this is a Christmas Pudding. The panels look like the multi-sided mould illustrated in her 1923 book. According to Mrs B's recipe, a sprig of holly should be put in the top and brandy poured over and set alight as the pudding is brought to the table. I wonder if the 'steam' is intended to indicate this - that the pudding is hot?

  8. I think it's from the 'Cold Collations' page - Lamb Cutlets!!!! The Victorians did enjoy decorating their food. The 'steam' is probably one of those frilly paper hats that were put on the bone end of the cutlet.

  9. I think it's from the cold collations page too. Look on the Bridgman Images site for the illustration

  10. Well, lamb cutlets it is! And yes, with a wee paper twiddle for the end of the bone. I'm convinced, and can stop thinking about it all.