Wednesday, September 18, 2013

passing along the wisdom

I'm a pretty good cook. I mean, I can bake like a crazy person, and the food I make is consistently delicious.  However, I seem to fail at what might be one of the easiest desserts ever: rice pudding.
What's so hard about rice pudding? I have no idea. Essentially, I follow a recipe, but I end up with some not-awful-tasting-yet-not-creamy rice pudding stuff that just isn't appetizing. DAMN IT.

I'm not certain how many failed attempts at rice pudding occurred, but then I made rice pudding for L's mom...and it was another tasty-yet-crunchy rice dish. DAMN IT. She kindly gave me a recipe, however, that she said would solve all my woes.

So I made it. And it turned out deliciously, as she promised it would. It was easy and involved dumping things into a dish and baking until set. Success!

The secret it turns out is beginning with cooked rice. I made sure that rice was COOKED, like maybe a little overcooked, before proceeding. Then, creamy rice pudding appeared!

Anyway, all this got me thinking about the unlegitimated forms of knowledge that are frequently shared among women, either informally through conversation or, increasingly, via blog posts. Women are among the primary writers and readers of blogs, with the burst of mommy-blogs, cooking blogs, and other domesticity-related venues.  This knowledge goes unrecognized and is often dismissed, yet it demonstrates an interesting way that women continue to pass knowledge on to one another, and the gendered nature of communication and knowledge.  Suddenly recipe sharing and parenting advice can be elevated to something "more" when viewed through a different lens--these are powerful avenues of communication.

I often think that what is missing in our current approaches to parenting and the nuclear family is providing for networks of women (and men, I hope) to pass along experience, wisdom, and knowledge when it comes to more domestic matters, such as housekeeping and childraising. (I say men because men are increasingly stakeholders in domestic tasks, as I believe they ought to be).  When a family is reduced to just the parents and the kid, it moves parenting from a community-based, supported activity to one that is the sole--and often overwhelming--responsibility of one or two individuals.  It's part of what terrifies me about having children is the sense that I may not have a support network to help me navigate the exhausting and murky waters of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, and raising a kid.

We need each other to make it all work, even if it's just getting a better recipe for rice pudding.

"It Finally Worked!" Rice Pudding

  • 2 cups fully cooked rice (white or brown--I used brown Jasmine)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less--I think I would have been happy with 1/4 cup. For this recipe, I used a mixture of white and brown sugar)
  • 2 cups milk (I used a can of coconut milk)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 c. raisins, currants, or dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used vanilla and almond extract)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • spices: I added cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to taste (really, cinnamon is the only thing needed
  • other add ins, such as fruit (I baked it with some frozen peaches that needed used, or if you prefer simplicity, no fruit at all)
As you can see from all my addendums, rice pudding can be a blank slate for whatever you have around: all you really need is rice, milk, sugar, and eggs to make it work, though I feel that raisins or currants are a necessity. I might make a pumpkin version, which I'll share with you all when that happens. :)

Preheat oven to 350.

Take your cooked rice and mix it with the other ingredients in a 1.5 quart dish.  Place dish inside a larger pan with an inch or two of water.  Bake until the custard is set (i.e., the filling is solid).  Cool slightly, then enjoy the fact that you succeeded with a rice pudding.