Are you jubilant about the Platinum Jubilee? What better way to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s unprecedented 70 years on the throne than to create her very own pudding (pudding???) to honor her. A baking competition is now underway across the United Kingdom to determine what kitchen masterpiece will be fit, not for just any queen, but their long-reigning queen.
Those of us here across the pond may be ignorant of the upcoming milestone event. As of February 6, 2022, 95 year old Queen Elizabeth (a/k/a Prince William and Prince Harry’s grandmother) will have officially been on the throne for SEVENTY years. As a young woman, Elizabeth ascended to the throne upon the unexpected death of her father, King George VI, in 1952. But, because planning takes time of course, she was not formally crowned until June 6, 1953.
As we all know, England has been around for a very long time. Thus, for Elizabeth to be the first British monarch to have remained on the throne for 70 years is a big accomplishment. Runner up? Queen Victoria came in a distant second in this category having served as queen for almost 64 years.
Queen Elizabeth’s monumental achievement has been a long (really long!) time coming, so one day is simply not enough to give it the recognition it deserves. Thus, the celebratory events will last for several months beginning in February and climaxing on Jubilee Weekend (6/2 through 6/5), and finally concluding on Sunday, June 5th.
While the typical concerts, parades, and services will be a part of the festivities, a creative twist sets this Jubilee apart from prior ones. A Platinum Pudding Competition is included. Entrants around the U.K. ages 8 and up have the opportunity to come up with a brand new, “perfect” platinum pudding recipe. But the clock is already ticking since the deadline for entries is February 4th.
From the submissions received, five finalists will be selected for a final round in March. These lucky bakers will cook live for an elite panel of judges in the Fortnum & Mason store in central London. Among the judges are the head chef from Buckingham Palace, Great British Bake Off judge Dame Mary Berry, and MasterChef: The Professionals judge Monica Galetti. Yes, its a tough job to taste and judge desserts, but someone has to do it; these brave judges will do so for Queen and country.
The winning recipe will be shared with the public. A mass consumption of the Platinum perfect pudding will occur on Sunday, June 5th when Big Jubilee Lunches are set to be held across the country. Over 200,000 neighborhood lunch events are anticipated in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland at which the new pudding will be served. These meals are a chance for citizens to share food in an activity promoting community and friendship. (Weight watching is apparently not an aim since a scrumptious dessert dedicated to the monary is to be served. Who can refuse that course?)
As an American, I just can’t see why a pudding, newly created or not, would be such a big deal. I mean would the Queen dance a jig over getting to eat pudding at a celebration? I wouldn’t. Has anyone really ever eaten a container of Jell-O Pudding at some momentous event?
Well, that thinking simply shows my ignorance. Apparently “pudding” is synonymous with dessert in Britain. And Brits would call what Americans think of as pudding “custard.” Yes, words matter. In England, “puddings” come in all sorts of varieties–baked, bread, batter, milk, etc., but at least they are all sweet. Some have strange names, though, like spotted dick, a steamed cake with currants which is flavored with suet. (Um, suddenly that Jell-O pudding is sounding more and more appealing….)
So what type of “pudding” should the entrants consider creating? The palace’s head chef, Mark Flanagan, kindly offered his suggestions: Keep it simple. Choose subtle and elegant over over fussy and complicated. OK, then. I’m sure Flanagan’s words have given entrants a laserlike focus on the path to pitching a prizewinning pudding.
If I was going to enter the contest (which I am not), I’d look at what the Royal Family’s likes are to start off. According to her former personal chef, the Queen is said to love anything chocolate. (Guess she has something in common with lots of commoners on that point.) In fact, her favorite cake is a chocolate biscuit cake which also happens to be adored by her grandson, Prince William; the future monarch likes it so much, the cake was served as the groom’s cake at his 2011 wedding. Kate Middleton, William’s wife, is fond of sticky toffee pudding. Why mess with success? My suggestion is to whip up something chocolate with toffee thrown in for good measure.
Thankfully, the “pudding” contest isn’t traditional in the strictest sense. Why do I say that? The word “pudding” is believed to come from the French word “boudin,” meaning a small sausage. Early English puddings were savory, and encased meats were used in medieval puddings which were usually boiled. And, who’d want the four and twenty (live) blackbirds baked in a pie that we learned about in that childhood nursery rhyme? I’m all for the modern, sweet view of pudding. Hurray for progress!
Actually a baking competition is a nod to the current popularity of baking/cooking shows. It is way to celebrate which is less stuffy than a public address from the monarch, a classical concert, or a military parade. And a “pudding” in the sense that the Brits now use the word is going to be more fun to create than Coronation Chicken. Yes, indeed, that poultry dish was invented for the Queen’s formal crowning celebration back in 1953. That idea, unlike the Platinum Pudding Competition, is for the birds.
The Queen, who turns 96 on April 21st, has been a dedicated public servant during her unprecedented time on the throne. She’s had to endure family drama and personal loss in addition to the heavy mantle of state responsibilities. Why not let her celebrate with something sweet? Let her eat pudding, I say!
How often do we take for granted the person we are speaking with defines a word in the same way we do? What type of “pudding” would you make to honor Queen Elizabeth? What’s a fitting name for a dessert dedicated to the long-reigning monarch?