Sunday, October 11, 2009

Grandma's Comfort Food

My paternal grandma, Edna Call Johnson, was a wonderful woman. The last of 10 children, she was born and raised on an Idaho farm. She told me once about how she helped her mom prepare food for the farm hands--how the table would be laden with food when they'd come in for their mid-day meal. She grew to be a great cook under her mother's tutelage, and I loved every meal she made for me.

As time has passed, my taste for foods and recipes has become a bit more modern-- less butter, more olive oil, less meat, more vegetables, fresh herbs instead of dried; but I still find Grandma's recipes irresistible. They are my ultimate comfort foods. Many of them became some of my mother's favorites as well, and we ate them often, even though we only traveled to visit Grandma once a year. Some are required fare at Johnson Thanksgiving dinner-- I don't think that any one of my siblings could consider it a true Thanksgiving without Grandma's recipe for citrus cranberry relish and sage stuffing on the table.

When we would arrive in Idaho Falls for a visit, she would always have a batch of chocolate chip cookies, a boiled raisin cake, and a pot of rice pudding ready for us. After I was married and living in Salt Lake City, Jared and I would travel up to see her every three months or so. I didn't matter that she was nearly 90 at that point-- she still had something freshly made when we arrived, and whatever she hadn't had the energy to do I would help her make after we got there. One visit we laughed ourselves silly because she had accidentally used wheat berries instead of rice in the rice pudding. Just for the record, I don't recommend the substitution.

Besides some wonderful comfort food recipes, Grandma taught me many valuable lessons. The one that stands out to me after telling that last story is that Grandma knew how to laugh and have fun, even when she was laughing at her own mistakes.

I was blessed to have her in my life until she passed away three and a half years ago at the age of 97. She had waited nearly 30 years to be reunited with her sweetheart and I couldn't mourn her passing much because I knew that she was happier there with him and with my dad. But every time I pull out one of Grandma's recipes I blink back a tear because my impulse is to grab the phone, call her, and laugh and talk while I cook.

I've decided to post my favorites of Grandma's recipes in the coming months. I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I have and make your own family memories with them. Food can be so powerful that way.

Today I made Grandma's rice pudding. And it is so good. But I didn't say it was healthy. Comfort food rarely is.

Edna's Rice Pudding
  • 1 cup white rice (I use sushi rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 quarts milk (it's best if you use something other than skim, but use what you have)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 well-beaten eggs
  • 1 T. vanilla

Place the rice and water in a large stockpot and simmer for 7 minutes. Add the milk and butter and stir to get the rice off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer again and let simmer for one hour with the lid askew. WARNING: I have NEVER made this without it boiling over. Watch the pot carefully to attempt to avoid this, and once it is simmering, turn it way down so that your rice doesn't burn.

After one hour, remove from heat. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Make sure that the eggs are beaten until they are frothy and light yellow-- I use a whisk but you could use beaters for this. Stir it in slowly so as not to scramble the eggs. (Optional: temper the eggs by slowing stirring in one cup of the pudding mixture to the eggs first, then adding them all back into the large pot.)

Serve warm or chilled with a dash of nutmeg. Makes about 8 servings.


Allison said...

NO WAY! I made Gramdma's rice pudding today too! (and thought about how nice it would be to call her while I made it). Mine didn't boil over this time and turned out beautifully!

My only problem is; it does not look like either Isaac or Flint like it, because neither of them had any with tonight. I'm in BIG trouble if I end up eating all of this pudding myself!

Myrna said...

It was delicious, thanks. MyrnaMom

a10cowwoman said...

Comfort food does have an important part in everyone's lives.

Grammy said...

I love your Grandma's rice pudding - it's a favorite at our home too. Thanks Edna!

Prudy said...

I'm loving your posts lately. Keep it up. I've missed you! E

Adrienne said...

I'll bet my grandma (or great-grandma) knew your grandma. They lived in Shelley Idaho and Idaho Falls, respectively. Isn't that a wonderful area?

I've been lurking and loitering around your blog on and off for almost a year and I feel it's time I let you know. I followed your comments from Prudence Pennywise. I too homeschool and am a member of the Church. Your homeschool posts are so cute and interesting.