There’s No Such Thing as Free Beer (or Pudding)

Not the pub in question but rather one of Luca’s locals…

Pub landlords; they’re a rum bunch aren’t they.  If they weren’t I doubt Al Murray would have been able to make a career out of sending them up.

Well I had one of those Al Murray moments, a couple of days back, with the manager of the London pub I go to occasionally of a Saturday.  A few years ago, as part of an effort to de-digitise my life, I decided to stop playing computer games.  The reasoning was simple; I had no happy memories of playing computer games.  All I had was the occasional black hole where an hour, an evening, an afternoon, a day, a week should have been.  Instead I tracked down a D&D group and went old school with pencil and dice and rules and miniatures and beer and company and, with a little time, friends.  Happy memories?  Loads thank you.  I could tell you stories.  They’d make everyone who’d been there laugh.  They’d mean more or less nothing to anyone else.

Anyway… where was I?  Ah yes; the landlord of said pub seems torn between appreciating that Saturdays bring in a dozen or more regulars to use an otherwise unused room, who buy food and drinks and what seems to be his inherent dislike of geeks  – you know quiet, unassuming people who spend money and cause little trouble.

But despite suspecting a simmering antipathy, when I spied a poster on the wall of his pub saying “Celebrate Cask Ale Week with Fullers” and “September 28th-October 7th” with a large picture of a pint of Fuller’s London Pride on it and the invitation “to ask for a complementary sample of London’s favourite” or words close to that , I foolishly decided to put it to the test.  After all, I had already consumed a pint of Fuller’s Chiswick and had just paid for a second so momentarily it seemed like a not unreasonable request.

The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Is that a poster offering free beer?”

Landlord: “No.”

Me (first letting the landlord’s refusal to accept reality in the form of a poster not 12 inches from his schnozz sink in) : “Well it does say ‘ask for a complementary sample.’”

Landlord (looking at the poster as if for the first time with a mixture of bemusement and loathing): “Well I suppose it did then.”

(Note: not ‘does’, present tense, but ‘did’ as in ‘offer’s bin and gawn’.  This was September 29th, one day into the nationwide cask ale event, the centrepiece of which is this attempt to encourage people to have a taste)

Me (having taken purchased pint of Chiswick and refusing to be put off):  “Well can I have a complementary sample then?”

Landlord (stunned): “What now?”

Me (thinking): No mate, I was planning on waiting until the event had finished or perhaps for hell to develop a crackling layer of permafrost.  (But saying): “Yes please!” upon which I was proffered a half pint glass less than a quarter full of froth.

Never have I been begrudged so small a mouthful of beer so fiercely.  It made me wonder whether the ‘mine’ in ‘mine host’ is etymologically linked to ‘mine’ as in ‘land mine’.

Then when I got back upstairs; there it was, sat on the table in front of my seat, a sponge pudding with custard.  To be precise a sponge pudding with custard that I had neither ordered nor paid for.  Free beer (not much but some), and free pudding.  “Dawkins IS WRONG!” I cried.

My friends explained that the chef (who in contrast to his boss is a tall, dark ray of sunshine with a radiant smile) had walked in, looking for the person who had ordered pud, and my friends knowing my obsessions guessed it was me.

I really wanted to eat it.   I found a fork for it and dropped it into the custard.  I beamed at it.  I communed with it.  We enjoyed a silent happy moment.  Yes people, we bonded that pudding and I.  But I couldn’t bring myself to.  Just let it get a bit cooler, I told myself, just to give things a chance to sort themselves out.  After all if it’s still here in five minutes then I’ll conclude the universe has sent it to me as a reward for winning a scant eighth of a pint of froth in an unarmed joust with a landlord who is a veritable stone when it comes to squeezing beer therefrom.

At four minutes and thirty seconds (approximately) the chef walks back in, asks me whether I ordered it.  I, like George Washington before me (he faced a number of serious pudding dilemmas before the Crossing of the Delaware), could not tell a lie.

“Well then, I’ll have to eat it myself.”  Pudding, sunshine, they disappeared from the room together and my world became a little darker once more.

So I woke up this morning, with the ‘I ain’t got no steamed pudding blues’ and decided to put that to rights.  So here’s my recipe (adapted) for marmalade steamed pud.  After all the weather has turned autumnal and in three months the Seville oranges will be with us once more and I did have a half-jar of marmalade in the fridge that really looked like it needed using up:

Paddington’s Post-Sauna Pudding

140g butter/margarine (either/or or mixed)

140g soft brown sugar (you could use caster sugar at a pinch)

2 tbs honey

3 eggs

Paddingtonian quantities of marmalade

3 eggs

80g flour

3 teaspoons baking powder (if you’ve used self raising rather than plain flour then 2 teaspoons)

2 tablespoons milk

Citrus zest (orange or lemon) optional

Find a pudding basin that will hold just over a litre.  Butter it liberally, take several generous tablespoons of marmalade and put them in the bottom together with some honey (or syrup, but bears is preferrin’ honey) and stir them together.

Cream together the sugar and butter until they’re reasonably fluffy.  Add the eggs one by one, making sure each has been properly worked into the butter and sugar before adding the next.

Stir in as much marmalade as you feel able to.  You can also add citrus zest at this point.

Combine the baking powder and flour, gently add it to the mixture, fording rather than whisking.  Lastly drizzle in a little milk and stir gently.

Pour the mixture over the marmalade at the bottom of the pudding basin.  Butter a piece of greaseproof paper, fold a pleat in it, place over the bowl butter side down.  Put a piece of foil over the paper.  Tie into place with string (I didn’t bother but tweaked the foil to keep it in place).

Simmer to steam for 1 ½ hours.  I use a two tier saucepan with a steamer.  You can use a trivet in a pan if you prefer.  Check the water levels regularly (put the time on for 30 mins at a time).

Serve with crème fraiche, fresh cream or custard.  Reader it was fab – even after someone mentioned calories.  If you need a hug this comes a close second.

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4 Responses to There’s No Such Thing as Free Beer (or Pudding)

  1. Alex says:

    Nice story, I hadn’t realised the sample debacle that had gone on downstairs.. Interesting you mentioned de-digitizing, I’m of the same mindset, want to get back to the happy days with less distractions before everything became so connected… Oh my, we sound old!

  2. Simon Newman says:

    I think the idea is you get a mouthful to sample the beer to see if you like it before purchase, not a free pint of beer. >:) That said, the landlord could probably have been friendlier. 🙂

    • Yes, understoood, but he was arguing the toss over the free sample – I wasn’t after a free pint! He didn’t even seem to know what the poster was offering. Taken together with all his other eggregious offences as a pub manager it’s par for the course, but frankly he should perhaps have a goood think about whether he wants to be in the hospitality business if he’s not naturally inclined to be hospitable…

      • Simon Newman says:

        I basically agree; I think this is a pretty common problem with chain pubs though. The central company comes up with marketing ideas that the landlords don’t like or even understand.

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