History of Rice Pudding 1st Century

Rice pudding

Rice pudding is an ancient dish enjoyed by people of many cultures and cuisines. This food traces its roots to the grain pottages of made by middle eastern cooks. It has long been associated with good nutrition and easy digestion, and were first mentioned in medical texts rather than cookery books. Throughout history rice pudding has been recommended for the young, the old, and people of all ages with stomach ailments. In 19th century America, arrowroot and tapioca puddings were prescribed for much the same reason.

The history of rice is a long and complicated story. Food historians generally agree that rice came to Europe by way of India. At first, rice was not used as an ingredient in cooking. It was prized for its medicinal value and known as a thickening agent. The history of spices also figures prominently in the history of this dish.

Rice pudding around the world

Middle East
"Firni, a sweet milky dessert, to be eaten cold, made either with cornflour or rice flour or sometimes both and usually flavoured with rose water and/or ground cardamom. The dish is decorated with chopped or ground almonds or pistachio nuts...the history of firni goes back a very long way; it seems to have originated in ancient Persia or the Middle East; and to have been introduced to India by the Moghuls."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 300)

"Shola...the name given to a number of dishes all over the Middle East, Iran, and Afghanistan in which short-grain rice is cooked until soft and thick, with other ingredients chose according to whether the shola is be be savoury or sweet...sholleh was brought to Perisa by the Mongolians in the 13th century...Shola-e-zard is a sweet saffron and rosewater (or orange flower water) flavoured rice dish...It has a religious significance, being made on the 10th day or Muharram (the Muslim month of mourning)...also made as a nazr, which is a custom of thanksgiving or pledge practiced in Iran and Afghanistan. The shola is cooked and then distributed to the poor and to neighbors and relatives."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 720)

"Kheer is the Indian name for sweet milk puddings usually made with rice, although it can also be made with fine noodles called seviyan, or semolina, carrots or sage. It is sometimes called sheer, which means milk in Persian. It probably originated in Persia where a similar dessert is known as sheer birinj (rice pudding). There are many variations in the flavourings which can include raisins, cardamom, cinnamon, almond, pistachio, saffron, kewra essence...or rose water, etc. For special occasions it is customary to decorate the chilled kheer with edible silver or gold leaf. The Persian version, sheer birinj, according to Kekmat...was originally the food of angels, first made in heaven when the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the 7th floor of Heaven to meet God and he was served this dish."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 431)

"Kheer. A sweet confection based on rice. When prepared as a ritual pucca' food, the rice is first lightly fried in ghee before boiling with sugared milk till the milk thickens. A kheer of jowar is mentioned in the fourteenth century padmavat of Gugarat, and other cereal products (vermicelli, cev, pheni) may be used as well. A thinner product is payasam, and both are popular desserts, routinely as well as on festive occasions. The Hindi word kheer derives from the Sanskrit ksheer for milk and kshirika for any dish prepared with milk."
---A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, K. T. Achaya [Oxford University Press:Delhi] 1998 (p. 130)

"The Chinese eight jewel rice pudding is so named because it is made with eight different kinds of fruit preserved with honey. Eight was said by Confucius to be the number of perfection. The fruits are arranged on the bottom of the dish and cooked, sweetened glutinous rice poured on top. The pudding is then steamed for several hours so that the rice breaks down into a homogenous mass."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 665)

"Rice pudding is the descendant of earlier rice pottages, which date back to the time of the Romans, who however used such a dish only as a medicine to settle upset stomaches. There were medieval rice pottages made of rice boiled until soft, then mixed with almond milk or cow's milk, or both, sweetened, and sometimes coloured. Rice was an expensive import, and these were luxury Lenten dishes for the rich. Recipes for baked rice puddings began to appear in the early 17th century. Often they were rather complicated...Nutmeg survives in modern recipes. It is now unusual to add eggs or fat, and rice pudding has tended to become a severely plain nursery dish. Nevertheless, it has its devotees."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 665)

"Northern Italians fancy themselves as having a monopoly on the consumption of rice, but in fact rice first entered Europe as a foodstuff via Arab-occupied Spain and Sicily. The Romans knew rice only as an extremely expensive commodity imported in small quantities from India for medicinal purposes."
--- Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food, Mary Taylor Simeti [ECCO Press:Hopewell NJ] 1998 (p. 69)

Recipe for early Roman rice pudding:

    Rice is boiled in fresh water. When it is properly cooked, the water is drained off and goat's milk is added. The pot is put on the flame and cooked slowly until it becomes a solid mass. It is eaten like this hot, not cold, but without any salt or oil--Anthimus On the Observance of Foods.'"
    ---Roman Cookery, Mark Grant [Serif:London] 1999 (p. 154)
    [NOTE: Anthimus (c.AD450-520) was a doctor from Constantinople who wrote a medical and culinary treatise. This recipe was translated by Mark Grant from the original Anthimus: On the Observance of Foods.]

Recipe for medieval Italian rice pudding (This is probably close to the recipe first introduced to South/North America--rice was an old world food that was first introduced to the New by the European explorers).

    "Rice in Almonds
    For ten guests, wash half a pound of rice two or three times in warm water. When it is washed and cooked, spread on a board until the water has evaporated. Then put in a mortar and grind with a pound of peeled almonds, and put through a sieve into a pan with fresh water. Add a half pound of sugar. It is necessary that it boil a half hour far from flame, on coals, because of smoke, and be stirred with a spoon. Rice can be cooked the same way in goat's milk. Because this dish quickly absorbs smoke, if that should happen, get rid of the smoke this way: transfer the rice from the pot into a clean pan..."
    ---Platina: On the Right Pleasure and Good Health, critical edition and translation by Mary Ella Milham [original book published in the 15th century] (p. 335)

A similar period recipe was blancmanger (with various spellings). This recipe also included fowl or fish, depending upon the Christian calendar.

    * Blawmanger, regular version (chicken)
    * Blancmanger, Lenten version (fish)

Rice pudding was a popular dish during Shakespeare's time. The Bard himself alludes to it's making at a celebratory feast in A Winter's Tale, Act IV, Scene iii, lines 37-49. The book Dining With William Shakespeare by Madge Lorwin reprints an original recipe from Thomas Dawson's The Good Huswifes Jewell (1596): "To Make a Tart of Ryse...boyle your rice, and put in the yolkes of two or three Egges into the Rice, and when it is boyled put it into a dish and season it with sugar, synamon and ginger, and butter, and the juice of two or three Orenges, and set it on the fire againe."

Rice pudding recipes

    * [1615] Gervase Markham's The English Huswife, Gervase Markham
    * [1803] Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter
    * [1884] Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Mrs. D.A. Lincoln

If you would like to try creating a rice pudding that approximates what automat patrons might have eaten during a specific time period, consider the following recipes:

    "Cream rice pudding
    2 tablespoonfuls cold boiled rice,
    3 tablespoonfuls sugar,
    Yolk 1 egg,
    3 tablespoonfuls cornstarch,
    2 cupfuls milk,
    1/2 teaspoonful McIlhenny's Mexican vanilla

    Put the milk with the cold rice in a double boiler, add the sugar and salt. When it boils, add the cornstarch wet in a few tablespoonfuls cold milk. Just before it is ready to take from the fire, add the egg and flavoring. Eat cold with whipped cream."
    ---Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book, Isabel Gordon Curtis [1903] (page 57)

    "Creamy rice pudding
    1 tablespoon uncooked rice.
    1 quart milk.
    1/2 cup sugar.
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon.
    1/2 teaspoon salt.

    Wash the rice. Add the other ingredients. Pour the mixture into a baking dish. Cook in a very slow oven (250-275 degrees F.) For 2 or 3 hours, and stir occasionally. Double the quantity of rice may be used and then the pudding does not require such long cooking, but is not so creamy. If desired, one-half cup of raisins my be added and the sugar reduced to one-third cup."
    ---Aunt Sammy's Radio Recipes Revised, Bureau of Home Economics, U.S. Department of Agriculture [1931] (page 101)

    "Rice pudding
    Cook: 2/3 cup Rice
    Drain it and rinse it with cold water.
    Combine, beat well and add:
    1 1/3 cups milk
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    1 tablespoon soft butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 eggs
    1/3 cup raisins (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    1 teaspoon lemon juice

    Combine these ingredients lightly with a fork. Grease a baking dish and cover the bottom and sides with: bread crumbs (optional). Put the rice in it and cover the top with bread crumbs. Bake the pudding in a moderate oven 325 degrees until it is set. Serve it hot or cold with: Cream, Strawberry or Raspberry Hard Sauce, fruit juice or Hot Sherry Sauce."
    ---The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer [1946] (p. 633)

41-45, M
Aug 21, 2008