Collecting Recipes, Nourished by Memories

For a few years now I’ve been collecting recipes.  I love food…I mean I love love food; we’ve had our issues and I sometimes struggle with control but I love it same way!  Grandma and Mommy were fond of telling me – and others – how much I enjoyed my food when I was younger.  Their favourite was about my fondness for porridge (see @marciaforbes it’s a long standing love affair :)).  I was born in 1982 and baby formula was not affordable for Mommy so I lived on breast milk (for almost 2 years) and adult food made sufficiently bland or mild for a baby (beginning with oats, because it’s easier to digest, and then cornmeal and arrowroot soaked overnight and then put through a sieve when cooked – that sort of thing).  But the best illustration of how much and how long I’ve loved food is my requirement that whomever was feeding me have 16 ounces of cornmeal porridge ready for a feeding: 1 8-oz bottle and then, whether done by one person or two, slip the second 8-oz bottle into my mouth so that I didn’t notice that the first was finished.  No breaks in food allowed! Failure to perform this maneuvre perfectly resulted in a wailing and upset baby *grin* They were only assured of my satisfaction when I turned red and began to sweat.  Shut off that thought! I was not & am not greedy!

Me in the kitchen...washing dishes 🙂

I spent many hours in the kitchen because I was always with Grandma and that’s where she was and I had to be in everything.  I learned to read and write early on simply because I wanted to know what was going on – like making the grocery list or reading the labels on things.  Couple that with being packed off to basic school at 2 1/2 years old and my family always spelling around me when they didn’t want me to follow the conversation (“little pigs have big ears” and all that)…that was until they spelled s-e-x and I said it.  Cue end of spelling around the 3 1/2 year old.  So those many years in the kitchen have stuck with me and it is a very comforting place for me to be; it’s where I’m creative and generally don’t feel hemmed in by rules (except when baking, of course).  I’m not the world’s greatest cook or baker but they are activities that I enjoy quite a bit.  I consider cooking a grand chemistry experiment with the delightful result of something to eat.  Just this week I made mushroom risotto for the first time and it tasted good! I’ve been watching Top Chef and a wide assortment of cooking programs for some time now and seen the method demonstrated numerous times so I finally decided to try it and 40 minutes of stirring and a watchful eye later I was very satisfied.

Most recipes are just for things that stimulate my senses when I see the chefs on TV but then I often tweak it myself.  Others are because I’m tired of buying mediocre things in the supermarket and I don’t always want to buy something simple like pancakes or muffins in the store!

my recipe collection book by Paperchase

Some recipes I go looking for because of an insane craving.  I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I’m pregnant because the cravings I get are specific and strong.  I suspect that these cravings are largely driven by emotions and memories but often I don’t even know what those emotions or memories are!  So putting together these recipes is more than just having a go to book of things I like and am adept at making; it’s also a patchwork of my memories and emotions.  Fond times and smiles.  I hope that I’ll be able to pass my Recipe Book and the lessons I’ve learned and am learning along to my children after we’ve spent many hours together in the kitchen cooking and chatting and learning.

A couple years ago I had a very strong craving for rice pudding…some time later  – after hunting on the internet, making a mad dash to the supermarket, retreating to the kitchen, and enjoying some steaming hot and heavenly vanilla-flavoured rice puddings – I realized where the urge came from.  Rice pudding was one of the last things my Grandma cooked for me and it was the only time she cooked it for me.  It was a Thursday or Friday evening, I think, and maybe 15 or so years now but I still can see her sharing it out into a big bowl and handing the bowl to me.  I didn’t want it (soupy rice I thought???!!) but decided to try it…and I loved it.  It is one of the most comforting things I have ever eaten so, accordingly, I pestered her to make it for me again but she never got the chance to and I went off to do teenage and then young adult things.

So here’s the recipe I found and use, with some tweaks of course.  I hope you try it and enjoy:


2-cups leftover white rice (tweak: I’ve used brown rice before and it tastes better; nuttier more hearty flavour)

3-cups milk, any kind (tweak: I usually use 2-cups half-and-half and 1-cup 2 % milk)

1/2-cup sugar 1/3-cup light brown sugar (tweak: 1/2-cup is too sweet!)

a pinch of salt

1/2-cup raisins (tweak: soak the raisins in Appleton Rum or Pimento Liqueur and add this liquid when cooking)

1-tsp vanilla extract

1/2-tsp cinnamon

a pinch of nutmeg

Combine the cooked rice, milk, sugar and salt in a medium suacepan.  bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the vanilla and the raisins.  Cook until about all the milk is absorbed (appx. 30-35 minutes or less time if you want it more like porridge and be sure to watch the pot closely after 20 minutes because thereafter it reduces quickly and it will stick!).  Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg at the end.

When next I make this I’ll post a pic…if you try this please let me know how it turns out!

I miss you, Grandma.

8 Responses to “Collecting Recipes, Nourished by Memories”
  1. CJ says:

    I know the feeling. A friend was visiting recently and she brought some sprat for me. Yes, real ole time fried sprat Man did I have a ball. The first thought when I opened the package was of my granny. She always had ‘ready-to-eat’ food in the box which she either brought with her on her rare visits to Kingston or sent from Mobay with either Sunshine or Jeff – trusted drivers from her neck of the woods.

    Yet to get into rice pudding. I will try your twist and see if I will like it.

    Thanks for sharing this memory.

    • Gosh now I feel for sprat! And I can hear the peeling voice of the lady who used to push her wheelbarrow of iced sprat — “Herrring Sprat!” I like them a little peppery with ketchup and hard dough bread. Grandma had them prepared often so it was a usual after school snack.

      Sadly breakfast is a granola bar and some tea…

      • Patrice Williams says:

        Renee honey, this blog entry sounds a lot like me, i am absolutely inlove with food and it’s a continuous love/hate relationship we share. And indeed attached to so many memories. Unofrtunately, i still have to learn to prepare it as well as my mother does so that i may truly enjoy the process from start to glorious end.

      • I’m working on mastering Jamaican dishes myself. My standard is “this doesn’t taste like Grandma’s/Mommy’s/Auntie Elaine'” *grin* But the fun I have trying and the memories all the attempts evoke make each foray with the pot, pan and stove priceless.

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