Of all the topics I’ve covered in my columns, it seems that Yorkshire puddings and how we eat them gets the most feedback from readers.
And 40 years ago, it was just the same, as I discovered when reading Dad’s column from 3rd March 1979. According to him, a number of people contacted him revealing a variety of customs after they’d read one of his pieces. Some revealed that they ate their puddings as a dessert AFTER the main meal when it would be sweetened with treacle or spread with jam. Others ate their puddings before the meal, but also sweetened them. Another told him that in 1943 when they visited a friend in Galphay, near Ripon, they ate one sweetened Yorkshire pudding before the main meal, swiftly followed by another covered in gravy. Only after that process would they begin the meat course.
The reason for this, which has been backed up by some of my own correspondents’ comments, was that by filling up the diners with puddings first, it meant they would eat less of the meat, the most expensive component of the meal. Another of Dad’s readers said that when they were a child, their parents would quote the saying: “Them that eats most pudding gets most meat,” which was a cunning way to encourage eager youngsters to fill up with with Yorkshires so that by the time the meat did come around, they were no longer very hungry.
I received a message from John Tyreman who reports that when he used to visit his cousins near Northallerton, they ate their Yorkshires with milk and sugar, while Angela Swinbank, also from Northallerton, says they always ate their puddings as a Sunday lunch starter with syrup and gravy. Yes, syrup and gravy. Together.
She adds: “I am the eldest of five sisters who all continue this tradition with their now immediate families. Indeed one family have added mint sauce to the syrup and gravy.” She also says that if there were any puddings left over, they would be eaten with jam and cream for high tea. She wasn’t the only one, as I had several people saying they ate them with jam, but the most popular choice was with golden syrup or treacle.
Well, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I couldn’t possibly pass judgement on these old Yorkshire traditions without trying them myself. So with the help of an expert taster (my 17-year-old son Joseph), I set about putting these concoctions to the test. We had four variations; milk and sugar, jam and cream, syrup and gravy, and lastly our own addition, chocolate spread (by special request from Joseph who eats it on just about anything).
We both tasted each topping, then ranked them, first to last. So now, the votes have been counted and independently verified, and here are the results (drum roll please…):
Milk and sugar: Joseph said the sugar was nice but the milk made it taste like he was biting into a wet shower sponge. He ranked it 4th. I thought it tasted like a pancake and wasn’t as bad as I expected, and ranked it 2nd.
Jam and cream: Joey and I both gave it a thumbs up, and it tasted very similar to a scone. In fact, one reader said her nana made Yorkshires with sultanas in them, and after this taste test, it does make sense. Joey ranked this at 2, whereas it was top of my list.
Syrup and gravy: This was the one we both dreaded the most, as it sounds so disgusting! However, Joseph said it was a welcome surprise that it wasn’t as bad as he expected, but that he wouldn’t want to eat it again! He didn’t like the texture of gravy and syrup together, although the taste was OK. I agreed with Joseph and for me, preferred it once the gravy had all dripped off and only syrup was left. We both ranked this 3rd.
And lastly, Nutella, Joseph’s favourite. He loved this, and it not surprisingly, it was his top choice. I, on the other hand, didn’t like the combination of textures of the pudding and the spread. I ranked it last at number 4 on my list.
After this most scientific of experiments, my belief remains unchanged, in that you can’t beat good old beefy gravy without any sweet distractions. What about you?
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