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I still recall the divine taste of the freshly baked plum cake – an iconic British pudding – which my Anglo-Indian school friends would treat us to around Christmastime in India.

Little did I know back then of its history as a vehicle of empire building. In the 1920s, the pudding – incorporating ingredients from Britain’s colonies, such as dried fruits from Australia and South Africa, cinnamon from Ceylon, spices from India and Jamaican rum – became a way to replicate British culture, writes Troy Bickham, a historian of Great Britain and the empire at Texas A&M University.

Its promotion as the “Empire Pudding” landed it on the dining tables of people across the empire, and indeed many in India still regard it as part of “tradition.” In the U.S., where I now live, Christmas pudding can often, as Bickham jokingly describes, taste like a “boiled mass of suet … as well as flour and dried fruits that is often soaked in alcohol and set alight.”

But what is remarkable, as Bickham writes, is that there are “so many adaptations,” including American ones – with pecans and cranberries as well as bourbon substituted for brandy – serving as a reminder of an Anglo-American concoction.

So, this year, for a whiff of nostalgia, I might settle for a version sold at London’s airports and brought over by friends transiting through – and let it be another reminder of our new global connectedness.

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Kalpana Jain

Senior Religion + Ethics Editor/ Director of the Global Religion Journalism Initiative

The Christmas pudding, a legacy of the British Empire, is enjoyed around the world – including in former British colonies. esp_imaging/iStock via Getty Images Plus

How the Christmas pudding, with ingredients taken from the colonies, became an iconic British food

Troy Bickham, Texas A&M University

The Christmas pudding, once known as the ‘Empire Pudding,’ reflects the lasting legacy of the British Empire.

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