I am a lucky person in that I am able to eat what I want, when ever I want and then, I have loads of free time so that I can think and write about what I ate, and what I will eat. Of course in the West isn’t hasn’t always been that way, Once upon a time, if you were a settler’s wife you had no free time and the making of food was an absolute necessity to fuel those who were doing the hard work of clearing the land and planting the crops. I often spend too much time in the past, and today is no different; it’s Mother’s day and my Mom is gone and I will comfort myself with pudding,as I wrote on another post.
Growing up, my Mom wasn’t around too much, she married her boss, had a baby too soon and then realized he was a tyrant, so I lived with my grandparents and she moved to Toronto. I ate what my grandparent ate, simple food, stews, fried bologna, “cold plates” in warm weather, lots of toast, butter and tea, and puddings, especially rice, butterscotch and chocolate. We ate pudding or custard at least three times a week, the best part was licking the spoon and cleaning out the pot.
Then one day, my Mom remarried she and my step father came in a brand new Cadillac to collect from my grandparents, and I never had home made pudding again. My mother detested anything with a soft texture, she wasn’t a snob, but she called it “poverty” food. She grew up poor, so the puddings and custards that my grandmother so lovingly made for me reminded my Mom of her humble childhood, and because of her new and elevated financial status, we didn’t eat pudding anymore. My Mom and stepfather were busy people, they worked, he managed restaurants and she did catalogue modelling for Eaton’s. They didn’t cook, well, not very often, once in a while they’d throw big catered parties and there would be lobster, beef tenderloin or fondue, and for dessert, the then very exotic cherries jubilee or cherry cheesecake, my stepfather’s favorite. All of these things were new to me, we didn’t eat lobster at Nana’s. It wasn’t a sad or deprived childhood, there was always food in the house, we had a housekeeper who did the shopping, it just wasn’t the food that I wanted to eat. So, at 12, I told my Mom that I wanted to do the shopping and the cooking. She was surprised that I wanted to take over such a “menial” thing, but I insisted, From then on, I was in charge, I was given (in cash) both money for groceries and cab fare. I’d walk there and cab it home. Oh the freedom to buy and cook what ever I wanted. When I look back at it now, there I was, a twelve year old kid, pushing a cart around, filled with food. With the money that I had saved on cab fare, by walking to the store, I started buying cookbooks, and making things like quiche and crepes, and then, I forgot about the pudding.
I cooked because I needed to feed myself. I became a cook because I wanted to feed everyone else. And now I cook the food that my grandmother made, her food reminds me of her love. And my Mom, well, her independence and crazy lifestyle for better or worse, pushed me down a path where looking after people’s needs became my profession.
It’s Mother’s day and I am eating pudding for breakfast, it reminds me of them both,they were like all relationships, complicated, maybe they still are, do we ever resolve our childhood issues? Food memories are powerful, and are not always pleasant; who doesn’t remember as a kid having to eat something they hated? Liver, Brussels sprouts or stinky cheese? I am eating pudding for breakfast and probably something more complicated for dinner, and it occurs to me, that I am my mother and my grandmother, today and always.
Pudding for breakfast is easy if you use this recipe, it’s a recipe that I’ve had for a long time and it’s from Carnation Milk, which we always had in the house when I lived with my grandparents. Was it less expensive? I don’ know, but I do know thaw the pudding is delicious, even for dessert.
Butterscotch Pudding from Carnation Milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 can Carnation milk
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 whole egg
generous pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar and cook until mixture bubbles, about 2 minutes. remove from heat.
in a bowl, whisk together the milk, cornstarch and the salt and the evaporated milk. whisk into the sugar base and return to the stove, cook over medium, stirring constantly until thickened, about 4 to5 minutes. in the same bowl (saves on dishes) beat the egg, while whisking, slowly pour the pudding into the egg, mix, and then return to the pot and then back on the stove, stirring for another two minutes. Remove from heat and add the vanilla, delicious. this pudding makes a nice crust on top, something my grandfather and I would often fight for.
PS. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!