I’ve never been much of a fancy girl. Were it up to me, I’d spend my days in jeans and tank tops. Don’t get me wrong, I clean up rather nicely, but I am at my happiest just hanging out. A dressy look is just not quite me, it never feels natural. Even when I get my hair cut, it feels strange to have my hair blown out looking so sleek and polished. My affinity for the informal is probably why I don’t yet own a single little black dress. Not a single one. I know, it’s shocking and quite odd, even to me. But I will mend my ways, I promise. A wedding I’m in this year asks the bridesmaids to don on such little black dresses, so I will be shopping for one pretty darn soon. So long as I don’t have to wear black shoes with it we should have few problems. I’m not one for matching my shoes to my outfit. Anyhow, dresses are dresses and jeans are jeans and I will forever have a love affair with the latter and regard the former with a bit of distrust and scorn. That’s just the kind of girl I am. Pizza, beer, jeans and tank-tops – and I’m one happy camper.
At least I’m consistent. As unfussy as I am about dress code, I like to apply the same to food. Comforting and soothing is something I’ll take any day over fancy and engineered. I’ve deep respect for fine, jacket-and-tie kind of dining, but were it up to me, were I running a restaurant, mine would be focused on soothing souls and nurturing the senses. Or maybe I would change my tune after awhile. I can’t be certain. It’s just this hunch I have.
I can, however, be certain about rice pudding. I think, and this is only my opinion, that rice pudding is just about one of the loveliest things there is out there. Like cozy wool socks, or homemade marshmallows. It’s my go-to comfort dessert, and one that I welcome this time of year with open arms. It also makes your house smell absolutely divine – sweet, warm, wintry. I prefer my rice pudding slightly warmed, but a friend of mine recently confessed to having an unhealthy addiction to cold rice pudding early in the morning. Sort of a breakfast pudding, if you will. To her it seemed unnatural to have this pudding in the morning, but to me – nothing sounded better because I was reared in morning rice pudding as a child.
Of course, being a kid, and a very picky eater with hardly any appetite (I could go for days without eating, of course, I was never given the opportunity) I gagged on practically everything that was milk-based. Grass-fed cows’ milk, people. Cows that knew not what hormones or antibiotics were. Cows that spent their days in the pasture, calmly, thoughtfully (I’d like to think) chewing on grasses and mulling around. And I gagged on such a thing. I shudder to think of the wasted opportunities to really get my milk groove on. And of course, I grew up in a family that thought (rightly so!) that milk equaled health; and a healthy child was what the zenith of family goals should be. Thus various milk products were force-fed down my through as if I were a foie gras goose being readied for the plumping. In any case, breakfast was almost always a hot grain cereal: sometimes buckwheat, sometimes cream of wheat, sometimes the overcooked, glue-like oatmeal my grandmother loved to serve. And sometimes, when I was lucky, it was rice pudding. Studded with raisins and impossibly rich. I ate that with more enthusiasm than other breakfast foods mostly because the raisins served as a good distraction.
As I grew up, I kind of forgot about rice pudding and it was eating kheer for dessert at my friend’s Indian restaurant a few years back, that jolted my memory. After that, rice pudding was all I could think about. I made it over and over and over. I combined the Indian flavors with the more traditional pudding recipe. And added a bay leaf as it gave the rice a slightly woodsy, herbal fragrance. Sometimes, rice pudding tastes so candy-sweet, it’s almost overwhelming. I liked having a little earthiness to the smell and the bay leaf complements the sweetness rather nicely.
While I typically share my food with friends, I never shared rice pudding. It would vanish from my kitchen with lightening speed; and oddly enough I never wrote about it. Mostly because I was too busy eating it than taking pictures. Last year, I made this pudding, took pictures and then immediately forgot all about it. I do this a lot – forgetting to write about recipes I’ve cooked eons ago. I hope you can forgive me because this is seriously good. And comforting. And warm. And you can have it for breakfast too and not just for dessert. Wearing pajamas. Or jeans and tank tops. Or fancy black dresses. It’s totally up to you!