I don’t know if it was the first patch of snow that fell on Montreal yesterday, but it made me wish for warmer weather. I thought of Australia, someone said in a forum the other day that it was 34 degrees in Brisbane right now. Would I jump into a plane and head for Down Under? Yes, if I could, but no such luck. Traveling this time of the year is out of the question. Airports will be crowded, the aircraft would be filled to capacity – the ideal place to breed the H1N1 virus – and who needs terminal hassles and transfers, not to mention air pockets over the Pacific Ocean?
Yes, I’m afraid I’ll have to stay put. I try hard every year to nurture only positive thoughts about winter.
The snow yesterday had another effect on me. It must be because Christmas is just three weeks away, and as I gazed out the window, I let my mind wander off to my mother’s bread pudding – wholesome breakfast accompaniment for a cold, snowy morning. She passed away in 1987, but I still remember the scintillating scents coming from her kitchen and have vivid memories of how nimble her fingers were when it came to cooking and baking. She never threw away old bread. Fact is she saved them for bread pudding.
There are a hundred ways to make bread pudding, but I’m sure your mother’s bread pudding, like mine, is top of the list. I liked the way she would include a drop or two of rum; raisins were standard, so was lemon rind. What I remember too was how she steam-baked her puddings. She would use those old-fashioned greyish loaf pans and make them sit over a pan of water inside the oven.
Because of sheer laziness, I don’t steam-bake. I’d rather steam or bake, but I won’t combine the two. My mother was more adventurous in the kitchen, and delighted in experimenting. She abhorred following recipes to the letter, she’d always do something different to “brand” it as her own. Her culinary passion translated into an “outta-this-world” taste.
But then again, 99% of daughters say the same thing about their mums’ cooking, and I don’t blame them. Call it nostalgia. Call it “mommy comforts.” One regret I have is that she died too early. She died of diabetes, a consequence of her love for food and eating.
She had a hearty appetite! I heard someone say years ago that those who love to cook and don’t look at their clocks while cooking are those who make the heartiest eaters. Perhaps that’s the reason my mom was such a natural cook, an avid fan of food. She had no hang-ups about food. She was a wonderful person that way. She kept an open mind. Many people I’ve met go “ugh, what’s that? You call that food?” My mom would smile and say, “I can’t wait to see what that tastes like. Give me a slice, hurry!”
Her bread pudding – which she always served warm – is a winner. At least to me it is. And while I would be open to trying other versions, I know my sense of nostalgia would make me always go back to hers. I seek comfort, especially during atrocious winters. Bread pudding offers that comfort.
I’d be happy to e-mail you the recipe (e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org). I didn’t post it because bread pudding is that kind of dish that most people can make with their eyes closed – with the guiding hand of their mothers. I’m willing to bet on that!