A Trifling matter

With all the food around during the festive season, there are some things that tend to make only an occasional appearance. Brandy Butter, for example. This is rarely eaten at other times of the year, and not sold in the shops until December, as a rule. Christmas puddings are made available to buy from October, though many still make their own at home. Few people actually eat that much of one, and their appearance at the Christmas dinner table has become more of a habit than a genuinely anticipated delight.

Even the Turkey has fallen out of favour, as consumers try three-bird roasts, turkey crowns, and more exotic options. The tradition of eating the remains of these huge birds for days afterwards has become the stuff of comedy routines. Sandwiches, curries, pies, soups, all served up to justify using the rest of something that was far too big to begin with. Add this to all the wasted vegetables, unopened canapes and seasonal snacks, half-eaten packets of crisps and crumpled drums of Twiglets, and the carnage left in the wake of this feast is all too plain to behold.

Another seasonal must-have, at least in many families, (including mine) is the trifle. Usually served in a specially-purchased cut-glass bowl, or one that has been handed down over generations. This concoction of fruit, jelly, blancmange, cream, more cream on top of that, and a topping of choice, covered in chocolate sprinkles, can often be too heavy for one person to heft without help. It also contains one of the most unappetising and pointless ingredients in the history of desserts, sponge fingers. Adding all the moist layers onto the base of sponge just serves to soak it thoroughly. Some cooks even soak the sponges before that, making sure they are truly sodden.

Deconstructed, in the modern style, the individual layers are potentially tasty. Fruit can be nice, jelly and blancmange make a good dessert on their own, and cream is always a tasty addition to most sweets. As long as you can live with the amount of sugar, and the calorific intake, they are all more than acceptable. But whoever thought to add wet sponge to this mix must have been out of their mind. Would the same person run a sandwich under the tap, before eating it? Would they bake a nice cake, then put it into a bowl of water? I suggest not. So why, oh why, would they think that a wet mess of crumbling sponge makes a tasty addition to a cream and fruit dessert?

As you can tell, I don’t like Trifle.


15 thoughts on “A Trifling matter

  1. Brandy butter, turkey crowns, Twiglets, blancmange, trifles… I’m not familiar with these edibles at all, Pete. We sometimes make a dessert over here called pudding cake. Are you familiar with it? It’s spongy, I guess, but quite good. Despite my ignorance in matters culinary when it comes to British traditions, I did very much enjoy your post. As usual, it was well written and very entertaining. Happy New Year! .


    1. Brandy butter is a sugary spread infused with brandy. (Or brandy flavouring) It melts when exposed to heat, so is an ideal filling or topping for mince pies. (Mince pies are shortcrust pastry pies with sugar on top, and a mixed spiced fruit filling.) A turkey crown is the breast of the turkey, legs and wings trimmed, so it is all just breast meat. Blancmange looks like what you call jello (we say jelly) but is made with milk, and can be coloured any shade you want. Twiglets are a long stick snack of wholewheat flour, dipped in Marmite, which is a savoury spread. I have added links, including trifle.
      I had to look up pudding cake, as it was not immediately familiar to me.
      I am very pleased that you still managed to enjoy this post, despite the differences in foodstuffs across the Atlantic.
      Now you can prepare an English meal for Christmas, David.
      Pudding cake looks tasty. At least it isn’t wet!
      Best wishes, and Happy New Year. Pete.


  2. Eddie is right, the sponge is there to soak up the ALCOHOL! I haven’t made one for several years, but a proper sherry trifle was my signature dish, though my eldest boy hates the soggy sponge too! That’s OK, more for the rest of us… [hands out bowl in hope]


  3. I actually ate Christmas pudding for the first time in more than 30 years, after developing a distaste for anything containing cooked raisins! I have to say I actually enjoyed it…maybe you should give trifle a go, just ask the chef for a sponge free variant, a Mess?. Although I’m sure the sponge is there to absorb the alcohol, which to me is reason enough to ignore the displeasing texture!
    Happy New Year!


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