Sunday, August 10, 2008

Arroz con leche/ rice pudding

A bleak day in the capital city with not much to distract me other than my french-chilean neighbors asking if they could pirate my wifi (which I don't have, and which wouldn't be pirating in any case, since they asked), has me thinking of hearty homemade food.

One day I will write a long ode to my altoids-tin-sized kitchen, and the wonders that I am able to coax out of it despite having not enough room for two humans to breathe in the same space, and only two burners and a diminutive oven. Today's wonders include baked zapallo (squash), which I mention in Spanish because it gets so many hits (curious this, will write about traffic in my 100th post, if I don't forget), a pasta and broccoli dish and rice pudding.

I have never been a lover of things that are sweet and warm at the same time. Oatmeal left me cold as a child, and even hot chocolate kind of gave me the willies. My turnaround on rice pudding came on a freezing cold summer day in middle-of-nowhere Landmannalugar, Iceland. My ex and I were travelling there, and intended to do a four-day trek to the next bus pickup, which we were eventually prevented from doing by a blizzard (in August). But on this morning we'd given ourselves some time to do our hostel chores (I ran the diesel vacuum cleaner) and enjoy the relative solitude from the other travellers' comings and goings. Our generous offer to help with the cleanup was met with an invitation to eat breakfast with the Icelandic hostel people, the Norweigan horsechick and a couple of assorted other Scandinavians. It all seemed terribly hospitable, and how could we say no?

Breakfast was rice pudding, possibly made with last night's left-over rice, and a selection of salted fishes like gravlax, and the one whose Icelandic name I could not master, and therefore called gravtrout (prepared like gravlax, but based on trout), much to everyone's amusement. These with a remoulade, served on brown bread, and an enjoyable conversation with people from a country with such a small population that if you say, do you know this guy called Jokul, he's a guide, everyone will say, sure, with the long hair?

And that is how I came to enjoy rice pudding in the company of strangers, sitting in my socks at a formica table in the middle of nowhere, hale and hearty tall and lanky Scandinavians all around me.

These days rice pudding reminds me of the childhood song "arroz con leche," which is as well-known to most Spanish-speakers as "We're going to Kentucky, we're going to the fair" or "your mother and my mother were hanging up clothes" is to the Brooklynites of my era.

And the part that's going through my head goes like this:


arroz con leche
(rice pudding: literally rice with milk)
me quiero casar (I want to get married)
con una señorita de san nicolaus (alt. de la capital) (to a girl from san nicolaus (alternatively, from the capital)
que sepa coser (who knows how to sew)
que sepa bordar (who knows how to embroider)
que sepa abrir la puerta para ir a jugar (who knows how to open the door to go and play)

Here it is, arranged and sung by a choir, if you're interested. Song begins at 1:08. I can't promise it won't get stuck in your head, too.



Now I wish I knew if there were a similar song in Icelandic! Any takers?

7 comments:

Sharon said...

I feel left out. I always sang it "con una señorita de Portugal"

Eileen said...

and now we have another regionalism! I wonder why Chileans would sing it about a woman from Portugal? And what do you do about El que se fue a Melipilla... when you're not in Chile?

Ronny said...

I'm gonna venture a guess and say the regionalism extends to the Pacific coast of South America, as I am from Lima, Peru, and clearly remember the imaginary bride being from Portugal in my childhood :)

Eileen said...

@ ronny and sharon, hey, I'm not against people marrying women from Portugal, if they are willing. Just saying how I heard it first!

Thanks for commenting.

Margaret said...

Yum...sticky-pegajosa song aside... now I'm hungry for some arroz con leche too! I never liked rice pudding much, but when an Indian friend made her version,(with basmati, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom)it became an obsession for a while... hmmm- guess who's going to be hanging out in the kitchen this morning!

Eileen said...

@ margaret, the only thing that would have made my arroz con leche better would have been if I'd also made the pan-fried (just a little oil) bananas (not plantains) with cinnamon sugar with it. In the end, we had that for dessert last night, and they were fabulous! That was a staple for breakfast in nice places in Brazil, which I only seldome stayed in, of course.

Margaret said...

Yum again on the bananas, but I'd do 'em up in butter, and if it were for desert, I'd add a splash of rum and flame it off... then maybe a scooplet of vanilla bean ice cream...!