Technically today was National Indian Pudding Day, but that seemed a bit insensitive, so I’m calling it National Native American Pudding Day. That may seem like I’m being overly PC, but if this is a dessert that honors the culture of the indigenous people of the United States, then I should treat their culture with respect. Words matter, so I’m just trying to stay conscious of that, especially in the current political and social climate of the land. Native American Pudding it is.
Pudding seems to be a dessert that gets celebrated a lot. Personally, that’s good thing because my exposure to pudding over the years has been limited. This quest is allowing me to taste all these great desserts that I’ve never tried before. They are pretty simple to make too. Native American Pudding is a type of pudding that’s classified as a Hasty Pudding which is a pudding made with a type of grain. Hasty Pudding is also a social club at Harvard which is the oldest collegiate social club in the United States and was named as such because members were served hasty pudding at their meetings. At some point, some members branched out and formed the Hasty Pudding Theatricals which was a group that would put on burlesque musicals. Today, that group gives out their annual man and woman of the year award which is why you see their name in the news every year as they honor an A list celebrity by dressing them up in drag and doing mostly silly things with them.
Native American Pudding is a hasty pudding because it is made with cornmeal, which was the ingredient that early colonists were introduced to by Native Americans, hence the name. It was a very British dessert that was adapted to the bounty of North America. You have to give those Brits credit for being resourceful. In time, it became a classic New England dessert. At least that’s what they say it is. I’ve been a New Englander for close to 45 years and I’ve never had it.
While I was checking out my Facebook feed this morning, I happened to come upon a recipe for Native American Pudding that the folks at Yankee Magazine had posted. The quintessential New England magazine posting about the classic New England dessert. I felt like that was a sign, so I printed out their recipe (which was originally published in 1978). It looked pretty simple which I was appreciative of and the only ingredient I needed was molasses. Whenever I hear the word molasses I think about the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1918 in which killed 21 people, injured over 150 and left millions of dollars of damages to the streets of Boston. I feel like more people should know about this disaster because the thought of a wave of molasses coming down the street at 35 miles per hour covering everything in its path is frightening. Just think of the clean up alone. Why hasn’t there been an epic movie about this? Someone get Affleck and Damon on the phone.
Making the Native American Pudding was as easy as promised. I started by scalding the milk (“You are a very, very bad milk!”) and then mixed in the molasses and cornmeal. Once that came together, the other ingredients came in (egg, sugar, cinnamon and ginger) then I poured it into a casserole pan and baked it for about 90 minutes. It made the house smell delightful and on a chilly, bright November Sunday, it really warmed the house. I served it after after dinner along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (the suggested way to serve it).
It wasn’t bad at all. I think you definitely need the ice cream to give it more sweetness. The molasses is the prevailing taste of the pudding and that’s not a typical flavor. The texture to any pudding is always a little odd (that’s the nature of pudding), but the cornmeal gives it a bit of a grittiness. Lola’s first words were “the texture is like I’m eating a ratty, old towel.” I could see that. But if you could get past the texture, it wasn’t bad at all. It was a warm, cozy tasting dessert. I think that’s where we get spoiled by this quest and having all these really great tastes and sweets. It gives you a very low tolerance for desserts that aren’t amazeballs. I’ll try some again today just to give it the chance it deserves. If it was good enough for Miles Standish, then it’s good enough for me.
That was our Native American Pudding celebration. I was thinking about how early colonists would make this dessert and how excited young Ezekiel and Obadiah would get when they smelled mother cooking it on the hearth. Their homes would be lit by glowing candlelight and warmed by a roaring fire in the fireplace and they would feel so blessed to taste the sweetness of their bounty and to enjoy it together as a family. So even though it wasn’t our favorite dessert, we still celebrated the sweetness it brought into the world and enjoyed the sprit of what it was to our ancestors.
On a side note of celebration, congrats to the Portsmouth High Girls soccer team who won the state championship game! What a great accomplishment and special cheers to our neighbor who was part of the team. What great way to end their season – as champs. Those Portsmouth Patriots are a force to be reckoned with. Let’s keep those championship games coming!
Next Up: National Spicy Guacamole Day (under a Super Moon)