Have you ever swigged from a glass of water only to realize that it’s lemon lime soda? No matter how much you might enjoy the latter, such a surprise makes for a bad experience.
Such was the case with my first turnip.
‘Mmmm, a pot of greens,’ I said to my childhood friend as we walked from the garage into his kitchen. ‘Can I have some?’
The answer was always yes at his home. His mother was a professional dietitian and was also in charge of feeding her three sons and husband. At their home, the coffee was always brewing, the pantry remained stocked and there was always something delicious simmering on the stove.
‘Oh no,’ I snarled as I bit into something bitter and searing hot. ‘Thi- ain’ a po-ta-to!’
In fact, I’d snagged a turnip and popped it in my mouth like it was nothing. Turnips have a tang similar to that of Brussels sprouts, except sharper. I could never mistake a little green cabbage for a bland potato, but that little peeled turnip fooled me like nobody’s business. And with that, I made a bee line toward the trash can.
‘You gotta eat it,’ my friend laughed. ‘You know the rules around here.’
He was right, and I knew it. Serve yourself to your heart’s desire, and eat it. All.
My first taste of rice pudding, much like my first turnip, also turned out to be my last.
I was an oft ‘buyer’ in the cafeteria at Mozelle Johnston Elementary School, especially when anything was to be served with gravy. Though I don’t remember the main on that fateful day, I’ll always recall the dome-shaped scoop of rice in the small corner compartment of my cafeteria tray.
So, I dragged my fork tines through the gelatinous pool of brown gravy toward the goopy rice, then shoveled the combination into my eager eight-year-old mouth.
Like something that might happen inside a superconducting collider or to a color and pattern-blind fasion desiger, there was a clash in my mouth the size of Dallas. Mega sweet milk-meets-oversalted meat-flavored roux. Disgusting.
Pass the water? And please make sure it’s not sweetened and carbonated.
Rice pudding was served only a handful of times during my school days, and probably for the same reason it was served at my wife’s home during her childhood: Waste not, want not.
In Catherine’s case, her mother made it mostly when they had leftover rice from Chinese takeout. Still, it was enough that she counts it among the foods that bring back fond memories. Lillian, in the early days, would make her rice pudding in the oven. She eventually started crafting it on the stove top, and it delivers the same craveable creaminess.
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Stove Top Rice Pudding
- ½ cup - Short grain rice
- 2 tsp - Butter
- 1 cup - Water
- 2 cups - Half & Half
- ¼ cup - Granulated sugar
- 1 tsp - Vanilla
- ¼ cup - Raisins
- ¼ cup - Brandy
- In a large saucepan, bring rice, butter and water to a simmer.
- Cook uncovered until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add half & half, sugar and vanilla.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, add raisins (if using), and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring regularly, about 30 minutes.
- Serve immediately, topped with whipped cream, if desired.