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Jack Knox: Christmas pudding takes cake among lost-and-found tales

Lost-and-found ad in this week’s Times Colonist: “Christmas Pudding, found at Touch Of Saltspring craft fair.” There are two types of people in the world: those who like Christmas cake and those who have taste buds.
christmas cake
Christmas cake is an acquired taste.

Jack Knox mugshot genericLost-and-found ad in this week’s Times Colonist: “Christmas Pudding, found at Touch Of Saltspring craft fair.”

There are two types of people in the world: those who like Christmas cake and those who have taste buds.

When I was a boy, Christmas cakes would arrive by mail from relatives in Montreal, Portage La Prairie, North Kamloops or somewhere equally as exotic. The groaning letter carrier would stagger up the stairs two-handing what appeared to be a paper-wrapped bar of lead, but which would, alas, turn out to be something far less edible.

For years, I would burn them in the fireplace, thinking each season’s gift to be some sort of homemade Pres-to-Log fashioned from compressed sawdust. If you didn’t burn it, it would just sit there like a guilty conscience. Having arrived pre-mummified, Christmas cake has the half-life of plutonium 238.

It was only out of desperation, in a year when my dad was on strike and food was scarce, that the family tried consuming one. Alas, it turned out to be as dry and dense as the Criminal Code, so we went back to eating the carpet underlay.

When you describe Christmas cake in this manner, its fans rush to its defence. Mostly they describe its alcohol-absorbent properties. “You should try my grandmother’s recipe,” they say. “It’s soaked with more rum than Churchill on V-E Day. Two slices and you’ll be climbing the tree to fight the angel.”

While it’s true that the best food critics do judge a dessert by its ability to get you floor-licking drunk, I’ll still pass. With Christmas cake, you pretty much have to be guttered BEFORE you eat it.

All of which brings us to that listing in the Lost and Found section of the Times Colonist classifieds last week.

Just as there are people who like Christmas cake and people who don’t, there are those who find something valuable on the street and say, “finders keepers,” and those who think, “I should get this back to its rightful owner.”

We like stories of the latter.

In May, three young New York roommates were praised for returning to a 91-year-old widow the $40,000 they found hidden in a couch purchased from the Salvation Army.

Then there was the auto plant worker in Korea whose wallet was returned after it was discovered in a new car in Buffalo. And let’s not forget the story of the Harley-Davidson that was swept away in the 2011 Japanese tsunami, only to be found a year later half-buried on a remote Haida Gwaii beach. Vancouver Islanders tracked down its owner, who asked that it be shipped to the Harley museum in Wisconsin.

To this list we can now add Sharon Darroch of Cordova Bay, the woman who placed the ad in the TC after someone forgot a Christmas pudding (a different species from cake, but the same family) at the Panorama Rec Centre fair.

In fact, Sharon turns out to be the maker of said pudding. Fair organizers returned the stray to her booth thinking the owner might look for it there. When that failed to happen, Sharon went searching for the buyer because, well, the buyer had paid for it.

By the way, Sharon acknowledges that many fair-goers are in the anti-cake/pudding camp. “A lot of people will hold their nose when they go by.”

Indeed, Sharon herself is no fan of the traditional Christmas recipe. (“I have to put peanut butter on it to cut the sweetness.”)

But, she insists, her pudding is not traditional. “It doesn’t have all the fruit and the peel or the suet.” Hers is made with cranberries and molasses and comes with a buttery sauce. She sells about 200 each year. “Everyone we served it to liked it.”

I’ll believe her, because if you can’t take the word of a woman who goes to such lengths to trace the owner of a misplaced pudding, whom can you trust?

And, after I spoke with Sharon, this story had a happy ending. The woman who mislaid the dessert told a neighbour of her loss, the neighbour spotted the ad in the TC, and presto, pudding and purchaser were reunited.

A Christmas miracle? Perhaps not, but it’s still a tale that warms the heart.

Or maybe that’s heartburn.

jknox@timescolonist.com