Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a tidy little wombat hole with his mother, and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Once a year, Aunt Lillibet made a pudding that was so delicious and wonderful that everyone talked about it for days afterwards. She would spend a whole morning mixing and cooking, and she would call everyone in the house to come and give it a stir before she cooked it. Ever since Benson was big enough to reach the bowl he had had a turn stirring, even though the mixture was so thick and heavy he could hardly move the spoon.
One year Aunt Lillibet made a particularly delicious pudding, and everyone loved it so much there was none left over, not even a crumb. Benson looked at the empty plate and thought about pudding, and thought that maybe it was his favourite thing in the world. He asked Aunt Lillibet, “How do you make it so good, Aunt Lillibet? What do you put in it?”
“Oh, eggs and flour and sugar, and fruit,” she said.
“Is that all?” Benson asked. It sounded very easy.
“Oh, spices, of course, and maybe a little orange juice if the mixture is too dry,” she said.
“You make it sound easy,” Benson’s mother said, “but no-one makes a pudding like you do, Lillibet.”
The next morning Benson was lying in bed, still thinking about pudding, and he had an idea. He could get up and make a pudding before anyone else woke up, and it would be a lovely surprise for everyone.
He went into the kitchen and got out the bowl that Aunt Lillibet always used, and a big spoon. He put in some flour and eggs, and some sugar, and fruit and mixed them together. It was thick and gluggy, and didn’t look right, somehow. He thought hard about what Aunt Lillibet said. Spices! he remembered, and orange juice. He chose his favourite spices and tipped them in, and then added some orange juice. Straight away he thought he must have used too much orange juice, because the mixture was runny and kind of grey. And it didn’t smell like Aunt Lillibet’s pudding. Maybe it needed some more spices, he thought, but that didn’t seem to help.
Just then his mother came into the kitchen, yawning and stretching. She asked Benson what he was doing. “I’m making a pudding, as a surprise,” he said.
“Oh,” said his mother. She looked in the fruit bowl. “There are no oranges left,” she said.
“I needed them to make orange juice for the pudding,” Benson said.
Benson’s mother came and looked at the pudding mixture in the bowl. “What else did you put in it?” she said.
“Flour and sugar and eggs,” he said, “and fruit, and spices.”
Benson’s mother looked into the bowl for a long while. “How much flour and sugar,” she said, “and how many eggs?”
“Some,” said Benson. “I think two eggs, or maybe three.”
“Benson,” said his mother, “it’s not just what you put in a pudding, it’s how much of everything. You have to measure carefully, exactly the right amount of everything.”
Benson said, “Is that why it looks funny?”
His mother nodded. “Probably,” she said.
Benson shoulders drooped, and he felt very disappointed. It wasn’t going to be a pudding, it was going to be a terrible mistake. Nobody ever said anything about measuring.
Aunt Moss came into the kitchen to make her breakfast just then. “What are you making?” she asked Benson.
“A terrible mess,” Benson said sadly. “I wanted to make a pudding for a surprise.”
Aunt Moss put her finger into the mixture and tasted it. “Mmm, it tastes…unusual. Which spices did you put in?”
“Cardamom, and ginger, and a bit of chili, but not too much. I didn’t want it to be too hot.”
Aunt Moss and Benson’s mother looked at each other. “I’ll go and get Lillibet,” Aunt Moss said.
When Aunt Lillibet came out, the first thing she said was, “Well, Benson, what have you been up to? Don’t you know that the recipe for my pudding is a secret handed down from my mother and my grandmother, and her grandmother? You can’t just go and make a pudding, if you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll just end up with a terrible mess that’s only fit for the compost.”
Benson looked so sad that Aunt Lillibet felt a little bit sorry. “Let’s have a look, and see what you’ve done.”
She looked into the bowl and was shocked. “What on earth did you put in it?” she asked. “Bananas? Oranges?”
“You said fruit,” Benson said.
“I meant sultanas and currants,” Lillibet said. “And what are these?”
“Raspberries,” Benson said. “I thought they would taste good.”
Lillibet snorted. She dipped her finger into the mixture and tasted it, then tasted it again. “Chilis? You put chilis in the pudding?”
“Only a tiny bit,” Benson said. He was just about ready to cry.
Lillibet humphed. “Well let’s see what we can do. It needs a lot more flour, to start with.” Benson moved away from the bowl, but Lillibet stopped him. “It’s your pudding, young man, come on, get to work.”
With Aunt Lillibet watching, Benson added more flour until she said stop. He added another egg, and then some more flour. Aunt Lillibet told him to add some cinnamon, and nutmeg, but not too much. They both stirred, and tasted, and added a tiny bit more cinnamon and just a bit more flour.
“All right, I think that’s the best we can do,” Lillibet said. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but let’s cook it and see.”
While it was cooking, they all had breakfast, and then Benson had to wash up all the cooking things, and clean up the kitchen, which had somehow gotten very messy, with flour and sugar and eggshells and banana skins everywhere. It was so messy that he even had to wash the floor. After a long time Benson’s pudding was cooked, but they had to wait for it to cool before they could try it.
“It looks… unusual,” Aunt Moss said.
“My grandmother always said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Lillibet said. “It doesn’t matter how it looks, it’s how it tastes.”
She cut very small pieces, and everyone tried it.
Benson’s mother said, “It’s quite nice, really, once you get over the unexpected bits.”
Aunt Moss asked for a second piece. “I like it, Benson. I think the turtles would love it.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Well for a first try it’s not too bad, young man. But leave out the chili next time.”
Benson thought it would be a good idea to leave out the tomatoes too, but he didn’t say anything.