The word roly-poly has had a long and varied history in English. In the seventeenth century it meant ‘rascal’. In the eighteenth century it was applied to various sorts of game involving rolling a ball, and also, apparently with facetious intent, to peas: ‘Here's your large Rowley Powlies, no more than Six-pence a Peck … Rowley Powley, jolly Pease’ (Cries of London, 1784). But by the end of the nineteenth century it had found its current home as the name of a comforting sweet suet pudding with a jam filling. Mrs Beeton in her Book of Household Management (1861) gives the recipe: ‘Make a nice light suet-crust … and roll it out to the thickness of about half an inch. Spread the jam equally over it. Roll it up … and tie it in a floured cloth; put the pudding into boiling water, and boil for two hours … Average cost, 9d.’ Thackeray, ever appreciative of the pleasures of the table, was evidently a fan: ‘As for the roly-poly, it was too good,’ Book of Snobs (1848). In the second half of the twentieth century, however, this calorific time-bomb was largely banned from British tables.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.