Reader Suzanne writes in with this combination query/opinion:
Then, what’s the deal with Yorkshire pudding? Is it “pudding” because you can put stuff into it after it’s baked? Or because you can use beef drippings for the fat? To me, it’s a sorry, imploded substitute for a popover.
Now, now, Suzanne, I believe we put hostilities with Great Britain behind us with the Treaty of Ghent. However as to the first part of your question, I can’t say I know for sure how Yorkshire pudding came to be classified formally as a “pudding.” Over the weekend I devoted a little thought to the definition of pudding. I wondered if, even though the word pudding has come to stand for such a wide variety of food items, there was still some commonality between boudin, tapioca pudding, yorkshire pudding and persimmon pudding.
They’re all cooked mixtures of several different ingredients, so there’s that. None of them are prepared by the same method, however. Some are sweet, some are savory. Some contain meat, some don’t. All vary widely in texture and appearance. One’s either an appetizer or main course, another is a side dish, one a dessert and the last a special occasion sweet. The only thing I can come up with that’s common to the group is that they all contain grain and they all contain fat. So…a cooked mixture containing grain and fat. Not exactly worthy of an entry in the Oxford Companion to Food, but there you go.
In Joe’s Perfect Universe™ I suppose “pudding” would be a word that stood for a cooking method, sort of like the word “roast.” It would denote a mixed concoction — either sweet or savory — cooked in a form by either boiling or steaming. That term would cover most of the foods that are truly in the spirit of the art, I think. Of course just about everything we know here in the States as pudding would have to be called something else. “Flop” or something, maybe. I dunno, I’m just throwing out ideas.