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Saveur story on Indian Pudding


lauraww
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Hi all,

I'm writing a story for Saveur on Indian Pudding and how its one of the few regional foods left that's really tough to find outside its home turf (New England). For example, in New York, there are only two restaurants, both owned by the same owner, that I can locate that serve the dish. I'm interested in hearing from people from New England and from New York and elsewhere about Indian Pudding. What's your experience with it? If you live outside New England, especially if you are a New Yorker, have you ever heard of it, eaten it,etc.

If you're from New England, did you grow up with it? Have you heard of it? How does its tastes, texture and appearance appeal/not appeal to you, etc. Any stories about it, family and otherwise, would be great.

Also, why when so many regional foods (e.g. Texas BBQ and fried chicken) have migrated broadly out of their regions has Indian Pudding stayed so local?

Thanks so much!

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Goodness. It's been years since I've thought of it.

Had it now and then growing up outside of Boston. I seem to remembering having it more often in Maine; perhaps my grandfather, who liked strong flavors, was a fan.

It's basically a blast of molasses, ginger, spices, and cornmeal, served in a digestion-unfriendly lump. Think warm molasses cookie dough. Dairy was essential to cut the stuff: vanilla ice cream, preferably, though Cool Whip was far more common in our house growing up.

You know, sometimes I remember a dish and want to rush right home and make it for old times sake. And sometimes... not so much.

Chris Amirault

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Here is a post I did some years ago about Indian pudding. I think of Indian pudding as a dish quite local to RI/MA, historically made with the RI white flint cornmeal. It is still served at the oldest restaurant in Boston, The Union Oyster House, and a number of small country restaurants in Rhode Island. It is a true Colonial dish, with a far from modern taste. I actually like it best when it is a day or two old.

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Maida Heatter has a recipe for Indian Pudding in one of her cookbooks and the intro to the recipe says something along the lines of "this requires long, slow cooking so if you are planning a slow cooked meal, it would be a shame not to make room for this too". Her recipe calls for 5 hours of baking, and while I've been wanting to make this recipe for at least 20 years, I haven't because of the baking time it needs. I just never seem to think of it on a snowy evening! My neighbor makes baked beans all the time during the winter, maybe I will coordinate with their efforts this year.

Her description makes me think it is like a spiced custard but not heavy; maybe akin to grapenut custard? Or maybe a cheesecake.

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If you haven't already, check out the the history of Indian pudding at Durgin Park restaurant in Boston. My aunt and uncle took me there when I was a kid in the 1960s. No gentility then. The dining room was no frills, loud, and crowded. When my dinner of pork chops and mashed potatoes came, I never saw so much food on a single plate. Indian pudding was a signature dish there--it's supposed to cook long and slow in a clay pot. Back then the restaurant had a little brochure with info about Indian pudding--how it's supposed to cook a long time, how the then-owner James Hallett was approached by young whippersnapper with a method for cooking the pudding only one hour (sacrilege), how a little old lady customer came once a week to eat 2 mammoth orders of Indian pudding, nothing else--things like that.

I remember cans of Indian pudding for sale in Boston supermarkets, too.

Myself, I can't stand Indian pudding. I don't remember where I first (and last) tried it. That strong taste of molasses did me in. Sorry.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The first time I had Indian Pudding was at Paul and Elizabeth's, a natural foods restaurant, while attending college in Massachusetts. They still have it on their dessert menu: Indian Pudding! I absolutely adored it. I grew up in upstate NY and had never heard of it before then.

The Durgin Park recipe (which I also tried many times during the same college years), seemed much heavier to me. I was there about a year ago and tried to make a meal of the indian pudding like the apocryphal old lady, but found it so rich I could only manage a bite or two. And it was incredibly sweet!!

Here in Delaware, I found "New England Pudding" on a local menu and tried it expecting something like Indian Pudding. No go: their version is essentially stewed fruit. Not the same thing at all.

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My dad loved Indian pudding. He was New York born and raised. (His mother was from Russia, not Rhode Island.) We lived in Michigan and he would order it every chance he got at (believe-it-or-not) Howard Johnson's (during the Pepin years). I didn't uh, appreciate it (way) back in the day and haven't had it since. But it's a good food memory nonetheless and sometimes I think about making it just to see...

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Indian Pudding was something we had several times a year when I was a kid growing up in CT in the 60's. It was definitely a fall/winter dessert and was, in our family, invariably served in a bowl, hot with a big dab of vanilla ice cream melting down it. I remember having it at home a few times but mostly I think we ate it after meals at my grandfather's farm.

My grandmother's recipe (I am looking at her yellow, dog-eared, original hand-written file card, right now) is pretty simple...

Grandma Chamberlain’s Indian Pudding

Amount Measure Ingredient

-------- ------------ -----------

1/3 Cp Corn Meal

1/3 Cp Cold Water

1 Qt Milk

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Ginger

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

1/2 Cp Molasses

1. Combine the corn meal and water.

2. Scald the milk.

3. Add the corn meal mix to the milk and cook 20 minutes until thick.

4. Add the salt and spices and molasses.

5. Pour into a greased 1 1/2 qt dish.

6. Bake @ 325*F for 2 hours.

7. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

It's right up there with steamed brown bread (as an accompaniment to baked beans, of course) as favorite classic NE baked goods.

The Big Cheese

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