Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Dec 18, 1948
The Luxury of Rice Pudding
When I was a child I should have found it difficult to believe that a time would come when the reappearance of rice pudding on the dinner table would seem an event of national importance calling for advance announcements in the newspapers. There were times when we would almost have welcomed a long holiday from rice in the nursery. Our chief fear was not that the supply would fall but that it would be unending like rainy weather after a bad St. Swithin’s Day.
There were even children who hated rice pudding almost as bitterly as you and I hated wartime sausages. I was never one of them, however. I thought of rice pudding as delicious when cooked with a superfluity of creamy milk, and as no worse than commonplace when it was of the normal stiff consistency.
Now, after years of abstinence, rice pudding, however cooked—milky of milkless—seems to me a luxury. A present of rice the other day convinced me that, if I were offered my choice between the best and richest possible Christmas pudding at dinner every day for a fortnight and almost every kind of rice pudding at dinner every day for a fortnight, I would choose the rice pudding.
No child tasting rice pudding for the first time after the new stocks are on sale but will feel that the pudding of its dreams has materialized at last.
So it seemed to me at least as I munched the unaccustomed food last week.
This set me trying to remember which foods I had disliked most as a child and wondering whether I have grown to like any of them better in this age of general scarcity.
Highest in the list of things loathed I put fat of any kind. And not even in the starveling days of wartime did I fail to set aside the fat of my portion of bacon for some member of the dumb creation. Not once has the tiniest fragment of beef or mutton fat passed the iron curtain of my teeth.
Nor could hunger induce me to give one more trial to the oatmeal porridge that I had rejected with contumely since I was able to speak. I did not abhor porridge, however, as I abhorred fat; I merely hated it.
Of the fish I was most hostile to the herring; but this was because my nurse was so terrified of herring bones as chokers of children that I never ate a herring without feeling that I did so at the risk of my life. How often, even at the simulacrum of a choke, did that good woman ply me with thick oatcake, which was supposed to carry the bone down past the throat!
This luckily is a fear that I have outlived. I can now eat a herring with heroic indifference to the risks I am running, and indeed have become such a devotee of the fish that, if I were a poet, I might address a sonnet to it.
Among the sweets of 60 years ago the one I liked least was probably blanc mange. Dull in color, dull in texture, dull in taste, it had nothing to be said for it except that it staved off hunger. It could be made palatable with some flavoring essence or if it were served with jam and cream. But it was a dish unworthy of such adjuncts.
On the whole I seem to have been a broadminded child at table. I liked nearly everything, including corned beef. Sardines I loved and next to sardines pork. I had no objection to the Sunday sirloin, and cold mutton became a delicacy under the sweet influence of red currant jelly. I had as good an appetite for tripe and those black puddings at the thought of which some people’s gills go white as for duck and goose and salmon.
As for rice pudding, it is probably like salmon in one respect—that, if you get too much of it, you grow tired of it. That, no doubt, explains why I never appreciated it at the end of the 19th century as I do in the middle of the 20th. Now, at least, abstinence has made the heart grow fonder, and the newspaper heading, “Rice Coming Back,” has raised my spirits as no other item of the kind has done since news of the return of the lemon was published.
Rice pudding is a dish to compare in daintiness, I assure you, even with four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. It will be a long time before I ever get tired of it again—a month of six weeks at least.