The Corner

Christmas Pudding Story

I know the following sounds improbable, but it is true.

While teaching in provincial China, 1982-3, I wanted my students to get some

of the flavor of a traditional English Christmas. I put up a tree and so

on; but it seemed to me that I should try to tackle all their senses,

including taste. So I wrote a friend in London, and he very kindly

airmailed me two real English Christmas puddings from Fortnum & Mason’s

store in Piccadilly.

Shortly before Christmas, the college had midyear exams. I set a written

paper, but I insisted on testing their conversational English, too. The

students had to come into my office one by one and engage me in a brief

conversation. After we had chatted for five minutes, I made each student

eat a mouthful of Christmas pudding before leaving. They all did so.

Canvassing the students later, I heard from several of them that getting

that mouthful of Christmas pudding down was the hardest part of the exam.

The general opinion was that it tasted “like traditional Chinese medicine”

(which tastes awful.)

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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