Living in Paradise

Does Anyone Really Like Rice Pudding?

Does Anyone Really Like Rice Pudding?

We went to a dinner party the other night where a delicious Caesar salad and a main course of Chicken Divan were served. I was looking forward to dessert, hoping it would be the yummy chocolate cake my hostess has fixed before, when she announced: “We’re having rice pudding. My mother’s recipe.”

Others around the table oohed and aahed. I groaned. But not so that anyone else could hear.

I didn’t eat rice pudding as a child, which tells me one thing. My mother must have hated it, too. We also didn’t eat tapioca or Flan. I’m guessing it was a texture thing.

Rice pudding smacks of Depression food when rice (a starch not a sweet) and heavy cream were likely in abundance and relatively cheap. I don’t know that to be the case, but I’m picturing a mother back then saying to her child: “Never mind that you just had rice with your meal, it is now part of your dessert, it’s a pudding and what we can afford. So eat it.”

If I had tried to serve something like rice pudding to my three children when they were young, they would have given Oscar worthy performances to express their disgust. (They actually did that the first time I served cauliflower with cheese sauce.)

Back at the dinner party and hoping to find a version of the pudding that had something delightful in it, I asked: “Is this nutmeg sprinkled on top?”

“Cinnamon,” the hostess’s spouse enthused.

Usually anything that lacks vibrant flavor can be jazzed up with nutmeg. Not in this case.

Instead, the hostess had put cream that she whipped on the spot on top of the so-called pudding. It helped the first couple of bites. But after consuming about a fourth of the dessert and all of the homemade whipped cream, I announced. “This is delicious, but I’m so full,” and passed what was left to my man who had already cleaned his plate.

His Scottish mother made rice pudding often, he reminisced to the others as he scraped the second plate clean.

I sat there wondering how this so-called dessert gained international fame.

All-in-all, it was a great evening with good friends. But when we climbed into the car, I shared my distaste for rice pudding with my man. “That is my least favorite dessert of all time. How can you call something that should be limited to chicken dishes and beans a dessert? I’ve never heard of zucchini or potato pudding. My taste buds don’t get it.”

“I thought it was great,” my man said, paying tribute to the skills of the hostess, who is a fabulous cook.

As he drove, I ruminated on the last time I had rice pudding. It was about two years ago and was the dessert served following a meal of fish soup, complete with tentacles. I can’t do calamari either, so imagine how I felt with tentacles and rice pudding on the same menu.

Coincidentally, we are having dinner at that same household next week, and when that hostess saw me in church today, she announced that we were having paella and asked if I liked Spanish wine.

As I nodded, I breathed a sigh of relief that we must surely not be having rice pudding. It couldn’t possibly be Spanish.

Au contraire. I learned from Siri a couple of hours later that Arroz con Leche is a classic Spanish dessert made with rice and milk that is studded with musky-sweet golden raisins and fragrant cinnamon.  No nutmeg there either.

Two rice puddings in one week? What torture. Maybe I’ll take along a batch of Mexican wedding cookies as a hostess gift. Delicious cookies covered with sweet, powdered sugar. That’s a dessert.