Almost without fail, January — which is always too cold, too dull, and too overdue for an antidote for holiday excess — puts me in the mood for rice pudding and this year was no different. I played around with it all month. I made my standard. I made a “creamiest” version I found online that landed me with an undercooked eggy puddle and a wobbly belly. I made a baked version that never came together. And I caved to my husband’s repeated request for chocolate rice pudding which is something you will never see on this site because it was, hands down, the most revolting looking dish I’ve yet to ladle into a bowl. (I added 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate added to my old favorite, and nixed the almond. See? Now I’ve saved myself a photography challenge!)
This all started simply: It’s January. I don’t believe in giving up anything one enjoys but I know, I know, that only minutes past Resolution Day isn’t the best time to bring up gloppy sticky buns, 7-layer cakes, gluttonous rubber band wrists and other thoughts that have been plaguing me nonstop. I’m not trying to spread the distraction, you know? So I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to show you how easy it is to make really good vanilla pudding at home.
Of all the things I had anticipated about being a new mama — the sleep deprivation, the fact that sometimes babies cry for no reason, whatsoever, that they look ridiculously cute things that are too big on them — at least one of the things that I hadn’t considered was, well, the Itch. The one you get at the end of your nose nearly the second after you start feeding the baby and have not a finger free to scratch it.
Did you hear? The Eighties are back. Right outside my very front door, people too young to have experienced the decade the first time around are parading down the sidewalks in leggings and high-top sneakers, shoulder padded blazers, thick belts and inadvisable doses of fluorescent clothing, without a stitch of irony. You couldn’t pay me to join them; I aim only make myself live down each fashion disaster once in a lifetime, but in the kitchen? Oh yes, bring it on.
A lot of times, a recipe comes with a story, and if you’re even luckier, it’s a good one. There are dishes that remind you of something your mama used to cook and unforgettable meals at far-flung restaurants that demand recreating in your own kitchen and fresh stuff that looked so pretty at the market, you had to come home and have your way with it.
Can someone explain to me how we can boil some grains, like oatmeal, in milk with a little bit of sugar and mix in some dry fruit and it is called breakfast but when you do it to others, like rice, it is considered dessert? These are the questions that taunt my brain when I wake up in the morning and realize all I want for breakfast is rice pudding but then force myself to eat “normal” breakfast food like oatmeal or an egg and toast. Or so I tell you.
All I wanted to give you for Valentine’s Day was some chocolate pudding. My logic was simple: decadent meals and rich desserts are dreamy things but, in my mind, not inherently romantic. More often than not, after such an evening I find myself too full for even a nightcap, quite tired and, while we are being honest, like I need to spend an hour on the treadmill. And I hate the treadmill.