Pilgrim Seasonings

Plymouth Colony Foodways: Notes and Recipes from a 17th Century Kitchen

National Vanilla Pudding Day

May 22nd, 2013 by KM Wall

I’m not at all sure how these National (internet) Holidays come about, but WHO KNEW that Vanilla Pudding had a following?

In 1627 Plymouth Colony, it’s the day they hold a Court to divide the first of the stock of the  shareholders venture – the livestock. The resulting document – known as The Division of Cattle – list the people -we’re pretty sure just about ALL the people in 1627 Plymouth – and the cows, calves, heifers, steers and the bull. And the goats, which appear to be written  in another handwriting, possibly a little later.

Kerry cow and her calf

Kerry cow and her calf

Red Devon bull - the bull is the husband of the cow

Red Devon bull – the bull is the husband of the cow


So, although there was some milk to make the sort of thing we now call pudding, what did these people think about vanilla?

Not much, if the cookbooks can be believed. By not much, I mean it doesn’t show up, a thing unknown, too unfamiliar.  The Story of Vanilla and it’s introduction to European kitchens is a Spanish story, with Cortez and Aztecs and secret chocolates……and then on to Florence and France……

Florentine Codex 1520 - not English

Florentine Codex 1520 – not English

The word ‘vanilla’ doesn’t come into use in English until the 1750′s, via a botanist, and it  really hits it big in the 19th century. Now it’s hard to believe that it just wasn’t around as a common flavor and a scent.

Which isn’t to say the internet doesn’t say otherwise……

However, it was not until the 17th century that it was recognised as a flavour in its own right. In 1602, Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I of England, suggested that vanilla had sufficient character to stand alone – and later the Queen refused to eat or drink anything that had not been enhanced with vanilla.

FYI – she dies 24 March 1603, so she didn’t love it long…..

Elizabeth I - painted after her death c. 1610. Perhaps she's missing her vanilla...

Elizabeth I – painted after her death c. 1610. Perhaps she’s missing her vanilla…

To boil a Pudding which is uncommonly good.

Take a pond and [a] half of Wheat-flour, three quarter pond of Currents washed clean, a half pond Kidney-suet, cut it very small, 3 Eggs, one and a half Nutmegs, grated fine, a little Salt, mix it with a little sweet Milk so dry that one kneads it like a Bread and tie it in a clean cloth rather close and throw it into a pot with boiling water and let it boil for two hours, then it is done.

-                     The Sensible Cook, Rose ed. p. 79.


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2 Responses to “National Vanilla Pudding Day”

  1. carolina says:

    And so, did you point out to Mr./Ms. Internet the error of his/her ways? Somebody should! LOL

    • KM Wall says:

      It’s hard to call it an


      ; for all I know, Good Queen Bess spent her final days lapping up vanilla scented treats. It’s just a little ridiculous.This is the real problem with the not-quite-untruth……mythology and innuendo are very slippery – and there’s a very thin line between slippery and slimy.

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