As the Big Meeting draws near, we ask another big question: did Durham coalminers once eat Yorkshire Pudding with golden syrup on it?

This is how it was served in the south Durham family of Dr Fiona Hill (White House advisor on Russia to presidents Bush, Obama and Trump) and her grandparents from Roddymoor called it a “wowee”?

Yorkshire Pudding was originally known as Dripping Pudding. When meat was roasted on an open fire on a spit, the fat the dripped out of it was collected in a big pan underneath. This fat – waste not, want not, particularly not in poorer northern England – was then used to cook the batter in.

A single pudding was originally the size of a roasting pan and cut into squares, and not an individual unit as you get today.

Dripping Pudding was renamed “Yorkshire Pudding” by cookery writer Hannah Glasse in her 1747 book, the Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.

Hannah has a fascinating life story. Her father was coal-owner Isaac Allgood of Nunwick Hall, near Hexham. At the hall, Isaac had a wife and several children, and in London, he had a mistress and several children. Hannah was born in London to his mistress.

When his wife died in 1724, Isaac tried to move his mistress up to Hexham, but the sensitive souls of the town seem to have objected, and she was “banished” back to London.

After an unsettled childhood, Hannah eloped with an Irishman twice her age, and they seem always to have been short of money. One of her get-rich-quick schemes was selling a magical elixir packed full of secret ingredients.

When this didn’t take off, she scrabbled together a cookery book, plagiarising some recipes and rebranding others – Dripping Pudding thus became Yorkshire Pudding.

The book was a success, although it didn’t heal her finances: in 1754, she was declared bankrupt with debts of £10,000 (nearly £1.5m in today’s values, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator). As part of her settlement, she had to sell the copyright to her cookery book, and she seems to have spent much of the rest of her life in a debtors’ prison.

In 1770, her death was noted in the Newcastle Courant newspaper as she was “the only sister of Sir Lancelot Allgood of Nunwick Hall”, and we believe the Allgoods still own the hall.

Hannah just talks of Yorkshire Pudding as a meaty accompaniment to the main roast, but over the centuries it has evolved.

“As born and bred Darlingtonians, my family always had plate-sized Yorkshire Puddings every Sunday before the roast,” says Marion Morton in Middleton St George. “Father, sister and I had ours with gravy from the roast; grandad had his with golden syrup; mother had hers with milk and sugar.”

This introduces us to two concepts. Firstly, especially in working class communities, the Yorkshire was eaten before the main course, its meaty taste from the dripping being a treat, but its cheap ingredients filling the diner up before they got to the expensive roast.

Secondly – you can have a sweet Yorkshire.

“When I lived in Belmont, at my mate John Dobson's house (no relation) we'd be given puds after Sunday dinner with sugar on them,” says Paul Dobson.

But why would Dr Hill’s grandparents call Yorkshires with golden syrup on them “wowees”?

“This has had my family recalling childhood holidays spent with grandparents,” says Joan Potts of Howden-le-Wear History Society. “My husband's parents and grandmother always referred to Tate and Lyle's Golden Syrup as “wowee”. This always amused my children when they were asked "do you want some wowee?”.

“I cannot recall them serving Yorkshire Puddings with golden syrup but pancakes were always accompanied with a spoonful of it, and they did tell me that some people ate Yorkshire Pudding as a dessert with golden syrup.”

Interestingly, it was also Tate and Lyle “wowee” which Dr Hill’s coalmining family served with their Yorkshires.

“My uncle, George Walker, was a miner at Dean and Chapter Colliery near Ferryhill, and he always called treacle “wowee”,” says Gillian Wales. “Despite being a miner, he was called up during the Second World War, so we always thought “wowee” was a word he brought back from his army service, but perhaps there’s a mining connection.”

The Northern Echo: Durham Big Meeting by Tom McGuinness, painted in 1968. Picture: Gemini Collection, Mining Art Gallery

Durham Big Meeting by Tom McGuinness, painted in 1968. It is one of the star exhibits in the colourful new exhibition of gala works of art in the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland. Picture: Gemini Collection

So for an authentic taste of mining history, at the Big Meeting next weekend, someone should have a van selling wowees - Yorkshire Puddings with syrup – and when customers have a moutful, ask them if it is gar-la or gay-la and see what they splutter out.