In the Middle West when I was growing up in the fifties, young—and sometimes even older—brides often succumbed to a malady known as hostess heat. This was a fever brought on by panic over the prospect of preparing dinner for guests. What if the rumaki were cold? What if the hollandaise curdled? What, worst of all, if the Yorkshire pudding came out greasy and flat, instead of as nicely browned and puffy pastries baked at the last minute in the drippings of that most canonical of roasts, the standing rib?
Because of its size, a standing rib roast was invariably company food. All by itself, it made for a festive dinner party, but some anonymous villain in Yorkshire had saddled the American housewife in a society still dominated by Anglo-Saxon attitudes with the ticklish problem of turning out a so-called Yorkshire pudding at the last minute, when hostess heat burned highest.
Following the lead of
When wheat came into general use in the eighteenth century, thrifty cooks in the north of England, including Yorkshire, started making batter “puddings” directly in the dripping pan while the roast turned.
This was really hard work, and chancy, what with all that stooping in front of a hot fire, as well as the uncertainty of timing with a spit. So when you try to make Yorkshire pudding (for a discussion of “pudding” in British usage) in your modern oven, think of how much easier your whole duty as a woman or man is than it was for the cooks who first tried their hands at this fine thing. They also liked to serve raspberry vinegar with their dripping puddings and beef. Vinegar went out of fashion for two centuries and a half but returned to chic with the nouvelle cuisine. Try some with your roast and Yorkshire pudding.
© 2003 Raymond Sokolov. All rights reserved.