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As American as ... Indian pudding

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Puddings were very different in the days of the first settlers here. The Pilgrims of Plymouth made puddings the old- fashioned way: They boiled them. And they're still doing it that way at Plimoth Plantation.

Two interpreters playing the roles of Candice Wainwright and Patience Prence are making puddings in the reconstructed 1627 home of Isaac Allerton, ruling elder of the church. Here, they demonstrate to a crowd of wide-eyed school children standing cheek by jowl on the dirt floor the making of "puddings" as they stuff animal casings with bits of pork, fat, spices, and cream. The stuffed casings will be boiled and then served to the men after they come in from repairing fences and hunting deer and turkey.

Last Friday, on a day that was as shiny and crisp as a McIntosh apple, Curtin served scoops of her molasses-rich Indian pudding to curious tourists at Plimoth Plantation. It went faster than peanuts at a ballpark.

Thomas Flahive, a dairy farmer visiting from County Kerry, Ireland, is giving it a try. Reluctantly. "We don't use it [molasses] for human consumption," says a surprised Mr. Flahive, with a brogue as thick as the pudding itself. "We use it on the farm to sweeten cattle silage."

His camera-shy wife, Helen, is equally impressed, "Tastes lovely," she agrees, "Easy on the palate."

Lisa Webb from Salem, N.H. is back for seconds. "I make it every Thanksgiving," she says. "I'm from an Italian family, and we like our desserts: cream-filled everything."

And how many desserts are served at a typical holiday meal at her house? "One per person. I'm not kidding. Fifteen people, 15 desserts! I made Indian pudding for the first time four years ago and everyone ate it. It was gone."

Ms. Webb balks at those who say it's not popular today because it takes too long to make. "You just mix it up, put it in the oven and forget it," she says. Webb plans to visit her in-laws this year for Thanksgiving, and, yes, you know what she's been asked to bring for dessert. So just why has Indian pudding fallen out of favor?

Back to Curtin. "People who aren't used to it ask, 'What is that brown stuff?' It isn't pretty. It's homey and homely." But when it's baking, she says, "it smells better than potpourri."

Indian pudding
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