Whenever I come upon the phrase “over-egging the pudding”, I want to know precisely what sort of pudding is being talked about, with a recipe where possible. I have been known to ask the question aloud, so keen am I to know. If I am out and about, on a bus for example, or sitting on a municipal park bench, my sudden cry of “Yes, yes, but what kind of pudding?” can disconcert those who overhear me. I have never, in these circumstances, received a satisfactory reply to my question, but that is hardly surprising. People just don’t seem to know as much about puddings as they used to. I am not sure why that is. It could be part of the same regrettable civilizational decline which has seen Received Pronunciation disappear from our radio broadcasts and television programmes. You can bet that a 1930s bus passenger or a 1950s municipal park bench occupant would have turned to face me and said, “Eggy pudding, I expect, old chap”, clearly enunciating every last syllable.
I give eggy pudding merely as an example. Remember that the presence of eggs, even too many eggs, in a pudding does not necessarily indicate that the pudding itself is an eggy one. It might be a plum pudding, a suet pudding, or My Lady Kent’s Pudding, to name but a lovely trio of puddings. There are others.
What bothers me, what has me shouting my head off on a bus or a bench, or elsewhere, is the laziness of writers who trot out the phrase “over-egging the pudding” without thinking. I would not for a moment dare compare myself with George Orwell, but he and I have one thing in common, which is that we like to keep count of our eggs. Indeed, I would go further than the author of Shooting An Elephant. I like to keep count not only of my own eggs, but of other people’s eggs, and of fictional eggs, and of metaphorical eggs. I am Alfred Hitchcock’s worst nightmare. The point is, if I am told that a pudding has been over-egged, I want to know by how many eggs the recipe has been exceeded, and to know that I need to know the identity of the pudding. Is that a crime?
In this day and age, it probably is. After all, there are council officials reading this who think “egg” might mean “for example” in Latin. They might well turf me out of my bus seat or bench and take me away to a compulsory brain-sloshing workshop, where I will learn that the counting of eggs is pernicious and the identification of puddings is antisocial. Until that day, I shall continue to demand an answer to my question, because I want to know about the eggs, and the puddings, and I make no excuses for being a seeker after knowledge and enlightenment.