Pride and Pudding

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Regula Ysewijn was born and raised in Belgium but carries a “profound passion” for the culture of her adopted country. In her beautiful new book, Pride and Pudding, she explores the rich history of that most British of foodstuffs: the pudding

When a publisher approached me three years ago, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to not only choose the subject of the book, but also develop the visual side. Because I am a photographer and graphic designer as well as a writer, this was very important to me. There are many books about the history and traditions of Italian cuisine—my dream was to do the same for British food, to prove that it is just as beautiful.

Narrowing it down to one part of British food culture, I decided to delve into the history of the pudding. For two years I searched through every source I could find that mentioned food or feasting and could shed some light on that period’s food culture.

I started with a Roman cookery book, then turned to Saxon chronicles. There was a monastic sign language guidebook and a notebook written to teach a woman the fashionable Anglo-Norman French of that time—all before I turned to the country’s first written recipes, The Forme of Cury, dating from around 1390. I was on the lookout for pudding evidence everywhere.

An excellent thing
It would be a Frenchman visiting England in the 1690s who would write about the British pudding in the most beautifully lyrical manner: “Blessed be he that invented pudding,” he exclaimed of this most English culinary delight. “Ah what an excellent thing is an English pudding!”

My book, Pride and Pudding, takes you on a journey through the fascinating history of this culinary icon of the British Isles. From ancient savoury puddings such as haggis and black pudding to traditional sweet jellies and ices, flummeries, junkets and suet puddings, I tell the story of British food and its links to politics and religion.

This is hopefully a refreshingly different kind of cookbook as it is part food history and part recipe collection. For many of the puddings, this is the first time they have ever appeared in a book with their photo, allowing you to see them in all their glory—very important in today’s visual world.

Profound passion
I won’t lie and say writing this book was an easy task: I’m not an academic, English isn’t my first language and it was very time consuming because I wanted it to be as perfect as it could be. A book like this costs a fortune to produce and it was only possible because I was able to not only write and research it, but also photograph it, cook the dishes for the shoot, design it and ask my husband to create the wonderful illustrations that tell part of the story.

As to why I decided to write this book, I can only say that I was driven by a profound passion for Britain, its history and its culture. I have been an Anglophile since before I knew what the word meant—since I was a toddler to be precise—and all because of misunderstanding a lullaby that captivated me about ‘Angel land’, which sounds exactly the same as England in the Flemish language. After my parents realised my infatuation with England wasn’t going away, they decided to start travelling around Britain with me on culture-themed holidays, which fuelled my love for this country, its heritage, and its ways.

Pride and Pudding is a result of this.

Read Regula’s recipe for black pudding.