Friday 17 February 2012

Raviliouses, Bawdens and the Queen of Puddings

I'm enjoying a very beautiful book called Ravilious In Pictures: A Country Life (for which my thanks to Mrs N, who also bought me its ideal companion volume, Edward Bawden's London). A Country Life is one of a series of Eric Ravilious volumes published by The Mainstone Press. Each opening offers a reproduction of a Ravilious watercolour opposite a page of text setting the picture in context in the artist's life. The story begins with Ravilious and his wife Tirzah living with Edward Bawden and his wife Charlotte in creative harmony in Brick House, a large run-down Georgian house in the village of Great Bardfield in Essex. 'There was no water,' recalled Edward Bawden, 'no electricity, no drains. Very exciting. If you're young!' Ravilious's pictures of the house and its surroundings are suffused with the contenment of a companionable new life in the country, and the two couples seem to have been very happy together. But the idyll had to end. After Bawden and Ravilious had a successful joint exhibition and made some money, Charlotte became pregnant, and Eric and Tirzah started looking for a house of their own.
All perfectly reasonable - but the painter and engraver Douglas Percy Bliss would have it that 'there was a rift between the couples caused by an excess of Queen of Puddings'! This, according to Bliss, was the only pudding Tirzah could make, and everybody got heartily sick of it.
I don't believe that story, for two reasons. One: Queen of Puddings is not especially easy to make, so if Tirzah could manage that, she could manage any number of other puddings. And two: Queen of Puddings is a very fine classic pudding, of the kind that sends pudophiles into raptures (as here)... My mother used to make Queen of Puddings quite often, and insisted that it shouldn't be confused with Queen's Pudding. However, my online researches suggest that they are one and the same. Perhaps one of the foodies over on The Dabbler could clarify, or even take up the theme...


  1. Well, it could be true in the sense that the basic recipe seems to call for milk, eggs, bread, sugar and jam. One can imagine versions of this hurriedly mixed together and cooked in an Aga or old iron stove which turn out a bit stodgy or even dry and perhaps rather heavy on the bread and light on the jam. Provisions might not have been easy to come by in those days let alone pay for, so after a few days of Queen's 90 per cent bread pudding one can imagine some disquiet, perhaps. Anyway, true or untrue none of it stopped him from producing art which makes one feel good to be alive.

  2. It does indeed - his and Bawden's. And it's good that there are so many graphic artists working in that tradition today, even if they're less well known than their more fashionable fellows.