Whilst the duty of purchasing provisions customarily falls within Cook’s remit, each November I savour the prospect of a trip to the village when I personally acquire ingredients for my Christmas puddings. Preparation begins on Stir Up Sunday, a ritual that has long been a Gosworthy-Pringle tradition. As an impressionable young girl, indeed, this was the one time of year when Mama granted me permission to access the bowels of Farthing Hall. There I assisted Cook in washing and picking over bowls of currants and sultanas before stoning a pound or two of raisins. How I recall my euphoria when first handling a cleaver. Several ounces of mixed peel had never before been so uniformly chopped.
(Such is my fondness for the custom that the precious annual details are ritually transferred to my calfskin monogrammed diary each New Year.)
Before embarking upon my mission, I listed the necessary items. Heavens, their familiarity requires little prompting yet the act of transcribing inevitably provokes an invigorating level of exhilaration.
My shopping assignment, however, served more to stem my enthusiasm than swell my dried fruit. Suet was stocked neither in the ageing delicatessen nor boutique of a food emporium that is more rustic superficiality than functional containers of ripened ovaries of seed bearing plants. Nutmeg, I was assured, is only available in powder form within small jars. Similarly, almonds are pre ground. Since one of my pleasures is to crush said drupes to my required consistency, my disappointment was tangible.
Such an unacceptable situation cannot be allowed to flourish. Hence, whilst striding back to The Hall, I determined to summon a meeting of the Parish Council to discuss villagers’ requirements and retailers’ priorities.
Meanwhile I handed over responsibility of acquiring pudding components to Cook, though that is by no means the end of my involvement.
In an outreach gesture, I have decreed that mastication of my delightful Christmas puddings will no longer be limited to seasonal Farthing Hall guests. Members of The Promotion of Classic Garments in a Society of Falling Standards Association are to benefit from the donation of more modest (in size, quality is to remain unaffected) versions. Although the community was, initially, a little tardy in embracing this recent haute couture initiative, my skills of persuasion have since resulted in several housewives joining. In addition, I am compiling a growing list of others who must be approached for I sense a spot of encouragement is required. Members of the lower classes are, after all, rarely forthcoming in admitting their flaws. It is likely that such women, whilst devoid of any tailoring instinct, are equally failing in home economics. My input, therefore, will inevitably enhance their lives on both levels.