Thursday, November 3, 2011

Frances Anglin's favourite Pompadour Pudding

(from Johanna Knox)

My grandmother seemed nothing like the bucolic blonde pictured in her American cookbook.

Frances Anglin was a large, stately widow, dark-haired, with urbane tastes. Hard to please, some said. But I don’t remember that. I was seven when she died.

There’s plenty I've forgotten – like exactly how her recipes sidled into our family repertoire. Her kitchen as far as I recall, was a place for her to smoke and drink coffee. Perhaps she was cooking less by the time I was born (and my mother says she didn't like cooking in front of other people).

What I do remember is her Canadian-ness. This was a basic piece of childhood knowledge, as foundational to my existence as facts like cats meow, dogs bark, and leaves fall in autumm

I was proud of my Canadian ancestry. I never considered how it must have felt for my grandmother to follow her husband all the way to New Zealand, an ocean away from her own sophisticated continent, and her continental-sized family.

I can still hear her smoky laugh, and see her Lower Hutt home with its velvet curtains and plush expanses of silver-grey carpet. I can feel her sleek Burmese cats wending around my legs. Artworks hung on every wall; watercolours, oils, prints ... some by friends and local artists, others her own. Hers were unsigned, as if she felt them unworthy.

Paper doll books were her treat for me. A new one every time I visited. I wonder now, was she herself as fascinated with them as I was? After training as a commercial artist, she'd enjoyed working for an expensive department store sketching women’s fashions for their advertisements. The Depression put paid to that job, and sometime later she married, never to enter the workforce again.

When my grandmother died, my Mum, her daughter, found a stash of paper doll books in a high cupboard, ready to be doled out one by one. I got them all at once - a thrilling inheritance!

But her cooking? There was nothing to miss. In fact, I now realise, her culinary legacy had already slipped seamlessly into my life. The recipes my mother made, especially desserts, were often her mother's.

Pomapdour Pudding was a star in the repertoire.

Mum says my grandmother often used to make blancmange from a packet, a bit like instant pudding, but nicer. You couldn't get convenience food like that in New Zealand in those days. Her blancmange arrived in parcels from Canada. That was a staple dessert, but for special occasions she made a Pompadour Pudding.

Here is the recipe, from the Culinary Arts Institute Cook Book. It's one of those 'never-fails-to-get-compliments' recipes, and it works well in tiny pots at bring-a-plate events. (Click to enlarge.)

These days you could use dark cooking chocolate, as per the recipe, but back when my grandmother pointedly marked up the book, you couldn't get good cooking chocolate in New Zealand, and cocoa had to do!


  1. My maternal grandfather's people came to New Zealand in a somewhat convoluted way: Scotland to Canada, where some stayed and some went back to Scotland, where some stayed and some came to New Zealand. When I was little my mother corresponded with a Canadian cousin, who periodically sent Mum a pile of McCall's magazines. The big excitement for my sister and me was the paper dolls and clothes that came with each one. They were like none we ever saw here. Perhaps paper dolls were a big Canadian thing?

  2. OMG - I googled and here they are! You can even download them and print them! Don't you just love the internet? :)

  3. I have to say that I like creamy puddings, I call them spoon dessert, but they are eaten with a small spoon in Italy, not the pudding spoon used for English style puddings with custard (I also guess because our puddings come in smaller portions, so smaller spoons are needed :-). I am glad that she did this for special occasions, I could have gone to her house and have this, while usually I am "scared" of Kiwi puddings, the hot ones with cream or custard in big bowl and with big spoons :-)!!!


  4. That spoon thing is interesting Alessandra. I still prefer to eat desserts with a teaspoon like I did when I was a kid. In some situations it feels a bit embarrassing, like people will think I've never grown up ... but I've also met quite a few people who feel the same, and do it whenever they can get away with it!

  5. ... And if you're reading these comments and share a fascination with paper dolls ... Cally has written a lovely blog post: