When I was researching all these food holidays I recognized all but one of the foods on the calendar and the more I looked over the recipes for this particular item, the more I bounced back and forth between just wanting to talk about it, and wanting to stick my neck out and actually prepare the dish. What actually kicked my over the edge was the one recurring thought hammering in my head; What kind of food journalist would I be if I didn’t leap feet first into my research?
The food in question is Indian Pudding. Today celebrates all the glory of this cornmeal based dish. Never heard of it? You likely aren’t alone; for all the food knowledge I have stuffed in my brain, I wasn’t at all aware of this dish, but then I took a leap, made the recipe and scooped some into a bowl. Call me a true convert.
It’s possible that this warm, molasses spiked baked pudding dish solely appealed to me because for every recipe I poured through, it always, always claimed to be best served warm over ice cream. When I was telling Mike about it, he had that familiar look of skepticism on his face until I said ‘You’re supposed to eat it over ice cream.’ then his eyes lit up and he said brightly ‘Say no more!!’ See how we are? Tell us we can eat it with ice cream and we’re SO there.
The history of Indian Pudding isn’t Indian at all. It’s origin is with the new settlers of the Plymouth Colonies. With the increase in the number of cows brought from England, and subsequently, the cows milk, they needed ways to use up the bounty and had the idea of creating a milk-based pudding like they had known in Old England, primarily Plum Pudding. Wheat flour was still scarce and mostly coveted for bread, so the settlers used cornmeal, and being the time that everything involving corn was named for the Indians, the name of the pudding naturally became ‘Indian Pudding’ despite having such non-Indian ingredients in it like molasses, eggs and butter, not to mention spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. But the name stuck.
All the recipes I came across were virtually the same. I went with this one as I can always trust and respect the source.
And the pudding was ridiculously good, and not just because it was nestled next to vanilla ice cream- dairy free, thank you- but because what came out of the oven after the long slow bake was a deeply burnished dish of warm and creamy custard spiked with rich molasses and a hint of cinnamon. I would have been happy to simply spoon up the dreamy goodness all by itself too. I cut the recipe I used in half and am always a bit skeptical of doing, especially in a custard-based dish, but it turned out more perfect than I could have imagined. As I swooned my way through my bowl I thought ‘This needs to be on the Thanksgiving menu!’ and really, it could be on any winter menu for it’s warmth and soothing appeal.