Last week I ate rice pudding for the first time in about fifteen years. And it was blooming lovely. A sweet, delicious time machine of a dessert. Although it wasn’t quite the same as when I was little. My mum used to add to the already horrifying sugar content by shovelling in a few more spoonfuls, then allow us to mix it with jam, but hey – it was the 80s.
Obviously, RP (as we call it on the street) was always the cooler, better version of sago and tapioca – a bit like how guinea pigs compare to hamsters and gerbils. Although I never eat guinea pigs with a spoon of course.
For a while, I recall that the three of them were locked in a vicious turf war for supremacy in the niche market of sloppy desserts. All three were pretty much variations on the theme of sweet, milky frogspawn, but RP eventually smashed it and the other two disappeared without a trace. Obviously the Rice Crew (me included) thought that RP had won out but then, slowly, it seems to have disappeared from the national consciousness.
It made me wonder if kids even know about rice pudding these days, or has it gone the same way as corn beef hash and rickets? As a writer, you’ve got to be careful about your cultural references. I don’t know if I’d get away with rice pudding. If I wrote, “In that leotard, he looked like a balloon filled with rice pudding” would anyone know what I was talking about, or would it be like dropping in stuff about VHS players, shell suits or Y-fronts.
The strange thing about rice pudding is how differently people react to it. My wife literally had to leave the room while I ate it – apparently it makes her think of cat sick. The kids gave it a bit of a mixed review – eldest wolfed it down; youngest sort of edged around it suspiciously before finally eating half of it; middle looked at it then said he’d maybe try it in a few weeks (which seemed a bit of an odd response, even for one of my children).
Weirdly, when people stop me in the street to scream about rice pudding (which happens almost daily), the reason why one person loves it is often the same reason why someone else hates it. I personally love the fact that each spoonful is the same, yet some people punch me repeatedly and tell me it’s bland. I revel in the way that it sticks to the bowl afterwards like the by-product of some new weapon of biological warfare, whilst other people fling their arms round my neck and wail hysterically about their ruined china. I enjoy sifting the milky stuff through my teeth like a baleen whale, laying out the bits of rice on the table then eating them one by one with a toothpick. Whereas most other people think I’m disgusting.
You get the picture. I’m going to eat the rest of the can.