How did Virginia Woolf enjoy her pudding?

Odes to cakes and sweets throughout history

November 11, 2020
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1928, Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own describes a luncheon party at King’s College, Cambridge hosted by Dadie Rylands:

“And no sooner had the roast and its retinue been done with than the silent serving-man set before us, wreathed in napkins, a confection which rose all sugar from the waves. To call it pudding and so relate it to rice and tapioca would be an insult. Meanwhile the wine glasses had flushed yellow and flushed crimson; had been emptied; had been filled. And thus by degrees was lit, halfway down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard little electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound, subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.’’

1974, Jane Grigson writes in English Food:

“I am a recent convert to rice pudding. All our childhood, my sister and I were carefully shielded from the horrors which my mother had to eat at the same age. This meant that rice, sago and tapioca pudding hit us with full institutional force when we were sent to boarding school in wartime. For twenty-five years the thought of milk puddings made me queasy. Then a while ago, an American friend made us eat ‘quick tapioca’—it was delicious. And not long afterwards, passing through Normandy, we saw some puddings with a rich dark skin on top, in a pastry-cook’s shop in Isigny. It turned out they were nothing more, nothing less, than rice puddings—known locally as terreguele, which seems to mean ‘mud in the throat.’”

2019, Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver of London’s St John restaurant write in The Book of St John:

“Our pudding list occupies a section of the menu at least as long as the proceeding courses. Puddings are vital! Far from being a grudging afterthought, they are fundamental to your lunch. Fergus could read the word CUSTARD through a wall. The convention of the separate dessert menu puts you at a disadvantage: imagine being too full for Steamed Syrup Sponge! A tragic end to lunch. Pudding is the diner’s final memory so it must be one of our first thoughts.”