I’ve never been much of a pudding girl. In fact, I think I’ve been more of an every-other-dessert-ever kind of girl. It’s not that I dislike pudding, but just that I like a lot of other desserts more. But here I am writing a blog post about it—putting it on par with cheesecake and mac & cheese. What the heck?
It all started when those British couchsurfers made a traditional British Sunday dinner as a thank-you gift to my host family (and, by association, me—what, it was hard waking up in the morning, finding three British passports, and being told six hours later that oh yeah, these guys are going to be staying here for a week!).
I’m not going to lie, it was pretty funny to watch these three tall, lanky guys crammed together in the kitchen and actually cooking. They didn’t even allow anyone to come over and see what they were making, but at that point it wasn’t surprising because they were very secretive when they brought their groceries home. My curiosity was piqued when they asked the host daughter, and then me because they thought she didn’t understand, where they could buy a jar of goose fat. They were so causal, like they were just asking for a jar of strawberry jam. What the heck did they need goose fat for?
They wouldn’t tell me. All they would reveal was that they were trying to make a traditional roast, but a Frenchified version since they couldn’t find some of the staples. Like goose fat.
Later, when all of the full plates were placed on the table, we were given a crash course in Traditional British Roasts 101. I forget the names of the vegetable mash and the roasted turnip things, but I’ll never forget the Yorkshire pudding I was served.
Does the name seem familiar? It did to me that night, if only because of Harry Potter. But Voldermort’s wand to my head, I would have guessed that the Yorkshire pudding was the vegetable mash, because that was the only pudding-like thing. I was just assuming that, like the American pudding I was used to, this Yorkshire pudding was supposed to be slightly liquid-y.
But alas. It turns out Yorkshire pudding is most like a popover, I guess, and it’s usually served with roast beef on these Sunday roasts. The guys wanted the goose fat for these pastry things, because that’s one of the main ingredients along with eggs, milk, flour, and salt (seriously, that’s it). And, even more un-pudding like, Yorkshire pudding typically is served with gravy. What the what?
We had chicken instead of roast beef, and we also had Yorkshire pudding made without goose fat; to the British guys, these two discrepancies had equal value, even though I could only understand the difference between chicken and roast beef.
It’s okay, though, because the British guys were having a hard time understanding my understanding of pudding. Wikipedia backs me up on this—apparently in America and Canada, pudding is a sweet milk-based dessert, but across the pond it’s also the name of dessert in general (sometimes, like the pudding course), as well as a baked starch-based savory kind of dish.
“So is your pudding like a trifle then?”
My mind flashed to the infamous Friends trifle. “Um, like a dessert trifle, but without the layers, and only one kind of custard-y thing.”
“Only one?” he asked.
“Yeah … its more like rice pudding without the rice,” I tried to explain. “But you could have it in all kinds of flavors … like vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, pistachio, caramel.”
Honestly, I’m so glad that I got to have that conversation in English. It was confusing enough in my native tongue. I don’t even know what my French sister thought of the conversation or how she tried to translate this mind-blowing discussion to her parents.
When I came to Paris, I knew that I’d have to do a lot of explaining about American things, but I just didn’t expect that I’d have to do it in English and about pudding.
I just told my French family that pudding was a dessert like a creamier, sweeter yogurt—because my host family is very cautious about their sugar and I had to get used to yogurt for dessert (womp womp, life is hard). They seemed to get it and I was proud of myself.
Then, three weeks later, we had pudding for dessert. NOT YOGURT! To my eternal dessert-lover shame, I didn’t even realize that it was pudding and not yogurt until I took my first scoop and got the surprise of a bite-time (the packaging is eerily similar, all right?) I almost spat out the pudding in surprise.
“Do you remember the pudding talk with the British guys? This is actual pudding!” I exclaimed to my slightly grossed out host family, thrusting the pudding cup in the air like it was the Olympic Torch.
I looked at the top wrapper I had sloppily discarded on the table. It said “crème de dessert,” which certainly isn’t “French” for pudding.
They chuckled a little and continued eating. That crazy American girl and her pudding, she thought.
Now, I have another pudding, one I can’t believe I forgot—especially in wake of the great American-English milk-based versus starch-based pudding debate of 2012.
BREAD PUDDING, YOU SNEAKY BASTARD.
And last I added another sneaky pudding: croissant pudding. Yeah, you read that right. Croissant pudding.
It started with the potluck Thanksgiving dinner my host program held the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (not on Thursday because we don’t have school on Fridays and students usually leave Thursday night—yeah, our school plans after-hours events around students’ travel plans). I was trying to find something cheap that could be Frenchified into a decent dish I could carry on the subway for twenty minutes.
My mom (my actual mom, LOVE YOU MOMMY) suggested bread pudding. My wallet suggested only having to buy eggs, heavy cream, and bread plus the staples in my host family’s kitchen. And then when I searched for cool bread pudding ideas, my internet browser suggested banana Nutella croissant pudding.
Every molecule in my body suggested that recipe.
It was a little pricier than what the people who signed up to bring two bottles of 2 euro wine would have to pay. But what the heck, this recipe intrigued me, and I figured I could just eat the leftover Nutella, bananas, and croissants—which I did, minus the Nutella. I only bought the small one in the glass container, but I used the whole thing in the recipe.
I was a little nervous, because there wasn’t any vanilla and I had to use packets of granulated white sugar to make the custard and then didn’t find the box of sugar until after I dumped the mixture in the bread bowl … but I was lucky and it was a big old soggy scoop of Nutella heaven. The bowl was licked clean at the dinner and I felt like such an accomplished grown-up because people asked me for the recipe.
But because I made the pudding at my friend’s place, I didn’t have to have the pudding talk with my host family when I had to go against my previous description of budding and add that there’s such a thing as a milk- and starch-based pudding. And because my host family doesn’t believe in dessert, I probably won’t end up making it for them.
So that’s one pudding conversation that was narrowly avoided. I just hope “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” doesn’t play on the ever-present radio, because I would need a Christmas Miracle to explain what a figgy pudding is. Who am I kidding … with my luck, that will probably happen.