There’s more than a grain of truth to this declaration: August 9 is National Rice Pudding Day!
Rice pudding is a surprisingly simple dessert that consists of just three ingredients: rice, milk, and sugar. Sure, you can add other ingredients like vanilla, rum, raisins, nutmeg, or chicken bouillon granules, but sometimes simplicity is best. Not surprisingly, rice pudding originated in Asia, where rice was first cultivated thousands of years ago. The dish gained popularity during the Middle Ages, as it spread through Europe like the plague. Err…oops, that was in poor taste. It’s still too soon for plague jokes. The first written records of rice pudding are found in medical journals dating back to ancient Rome, where it was prepared with goat’s milk and used for medicinal purposes. Because rice was once an imported luxury, elaborate dishes were prepared using fancy spices and other ingredients. As the grain became more commonplace, ingredients were scaled back, and nowadays the dish has a reputation for blandness. And yet, some cultures revere it. In Dutch and Flemish folklore, heaven is described as a divine place where you can find a never-ending supply of rice pudding, to be eaten with a golden spoon. And in Sweden, children put out rice pudding for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Famous writers like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Walt Whitman all mention rice pudding in their literary works, and in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the supercomputer Deep Thought claims the existence of rice pudding is derived from first principles. Seeing as how I haven’t read the book I can’t really tell you what that means, but I’m sure it’s deeply philosophical and stuff.
To celebrate, my mom made rice pudding from scratch. In a strange twist of events, she wasn’t even there to enjoy it, but we were. And we did. Good stuff!