I don’t care how old you are, there’s just something about being sick that brings out the baby in all of us. I spent the last weekend fighting a fever, chills and other unpleasantness and despite being middle-aged, being sick still makes me want my mom. I think this is pretty much a universal thing—or at the very least, being sick makes us want to be mommied. I’ve certainly dated some guys over the years for whom that’s definitely been the case when they’ve been sick!
Unfortunately I lost my mom earlier this year so I no longer have a mom to turn to when I’m sick. My dad has checked in on me multiple times daily though since I came down with this bug, so that’s been very kind of him—maybe he’s trying to fill in for my mom since this is the first time I’ve been really sick since she died. Being sick is also just a lonely and sometimes scary experience, especially when you’re single. It brings to mind panicky, Bridget Jones type fears like “If I die how long will it take for anyone to find by body? Will it have been half eaten by Alsatians by then?” (When you’re sick, the mind goes to funny and dark places pretty fast!) It’s also not really something you want to burden most people with, unless they’re a particularly close friend or significant other. It takes a special kind of relationship for people to want to deal with you when you’re sick—otherwise, let’s face it, most people just want you to stay far enough away from them so they’re not affected! It sucks—which is why we want a mother’s love then because there’s just no substitute for that, is there?
When I was a kid, being sick meant that my mom would pull out the “special sick foods” out of her bag of mommy tricks. These included things like Jello water, flat 7-Up and if you were sick for long enough, rice pudding. I think she probably got most of these from my grandmother—the rice pudding most certainly was my grandmother’s recipe and Jello water just sounds like a Depression Era/World War II era thing to me, so I suspect that came from my grandmother too.
Obviously 7-Up or Ginger Ale are sick staples for most people. Ginger, in particular, is great for stomach ailments and some bubbles seem to also provide some relief for sick tummies. Jello water was exactly what it sounded like—my mom would mix a couple tablespoons of gelatin into a large glass of water to help keep us hydrated, but also get something into our systems and some added protein from the gelatin.
And then there was rice pudding. This was always a treat because we didn’t get to have it very often—basically we had it when we were sick.
At one point when I was living in Boston, I asked my mom to write down some of her recipes to send to me—Grandma’s rice pudding recipe was one of them.
The funny thing is, I’m not quite sure my mom even sent the correct recipe because the version I got never mentions baking, and my mom always baked her rice pudding and I know my grandmother did too. But what she did send definitely sounded like “Grandma” type of recipe because the instructions were pretty minimal, which was the form any recipe from my grandmother took because most of them were in her head.
Feeling the need for some grandmotherly and motherly comforting (not to mention some stomach comforting), I went digging for the recipe this morning. Also feeling the need to be authentic to my memory of how my mom made rice pudding, I didn’t want to go all stovetop with this pudding—it needed to be baked!
So I did some Internet searching and it turns out there are tons of baked rice pudding recipes out there and they’re fairly consistent at least in baking temperature—300° or 325° seem pretty standard. There are all kinds of variations out there on amount of milk to use—one recipe actually called for 12 cups of milk! Which seems a bit outrageous! Many of them also call for eggs, but I don’t really like custardy rice pudding and my grandmother never used them, so no eggs for me!
I have to say the consistency of my grandmother’s rice pudding, while I loved it, certainly never had anything on the creaminess of say a Kozy Shack rice pudding. Hers was almost more the consistency of a noodle kugel—a bit dry. I did find one recipe online that was trying to emulate something similar and basically said that you could cut it with a knife, which is not dissimilar to the texture of my grandma’s pudding. Preferring a happy medium, I decided to use the base of the recipe my mom sent, bake it, but try to still leave it creamy.
Here’s the basic recipe with a couple personal liberties and written in grandma fashion!
Grandma M’s Rice Pudding
1 ½ c. water – bring to boil
¾ c. rice – salt
Boil 5 minutes. Watch and stir. Turn off burner and cover pan. Let rice absorb all the water. (Approximately another 5 minutes).
Butter casserole dish and add 2 cups milk, 1 tbsp. butter, ½ c. sugar, and cooked rice. (I also added about ½ tsp. cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, but you can leave these out if you don’t like them and want a “cleaner” looking pudding.) Place in 300° oven, uncovered. Bake for 30 minutes, then stir. Repeat until desired consistency – approximately between 1-1 ½ hours. (My grandmother probably would have said “Bake until done”!)
I left this in the oven for the full time – you’ll want to take it out before you think it reaches the consistency you want it to be because the rice still absorbs liquid after it comes out of the oven. I was hoping for something a bit more creamy, so I think I could have taken it out at 1 hour for it to be creamier. I also didn’t eat it when it was warm, so that might have also made a difference.
I think you could also take this in some interesting directions if you wanted to—like using coconut milk or half coconut milk. Or adding garam masala for an Indian touch. Cardamom would also be great. I don’t think my mom ever made rice pudding without raisins, but I know I lot of people don’t really care for raisins. I might have added them here, but I only had about 1/8 c. of them leftover from my chutney making, and that didn’t seem like quite enough, so I left them out this time. I did see recipes online that called for soy milk, so you could probably also use something like that or a nut milk—almond would probably be a good flavor. Vanilla is also a good addition.
I also wonder if you would make something like this with quinoa – I think you could. That could be really interesting—and more high protein than using a white rice variety. I’m sure you can do this with brown rice, too, but you’d probably want to soak it a bit first and also make sure to use extra liquid since brown rice tends to require a higher ratio of liquid to rice than white rice.
Hopefully this will have my tummy feeling better.
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