Thursday, June 5, 2008

M.F.K. Fisher's bread pudding was "innocent"?

Reading M.F.K. Fisher is a trip.

We are enthralled with the food and travel memories of Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908-1992), who, in her gastronomic prose, addressed wartime shortages in How to Cook a Wolf, the sexual habits of the oyster in Consider the Oyster, and enjoying simple fresh food in Alphabet for Gourmets. I could read these books over and over again.

Mary Frances also enjoyed bread pudding.

In her later years, while living in a custom-designed one-person house on a ranch in Sonoma Valley, California, she’d sit on her porch and sip her favorite white wine/Campari while enjoying the “innocent sky” of a sunset. She also liked to serve a bread pudding, which she described as “innocent,” to her guests before they retired for the night. With the addition of wine, rum, or some kind of booze, perhaps this dessert was not as “innocent” as she claimed.

And while her bread pudding could most likely be baked in a moderate oven, M.F.K. chose to have hers cooked in a double boiler over low heat. In those days she would often direct guests and others to help prepare her food. After this delicacy, slumberland was calling.

Here is a sentiment from M.F.K. to enjoy with our bread pudding:
“First we eat, then we do everything else.”
That about says it all for today.

(as dictated by M.F.K. Fisher to Barbara Quick)

4 slices dry French bread
Sweet butter
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup water or wine or booze, approximately
2 eggs
1 pint (2 cups) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or rum
1/2 cup brown sugar

Thickly butter 4 slices of dry French bread (it should be sweet butter and bread that has some substance – no limp white bread for this). Cut it into bite-size pieces.
Plump a half a cup of raisins in water or wine or booze. Beat two eggs in a pint of milk. Add some vanilla or rum, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.
Put half of the bread nibbles in the top of a double boiler. Add half the raisins and half the liquid. Then add the rest of the bread, raisins, and liquid. Put some nutmeg on top.
Cover closely. Put over generously boiling water. Turn down the heat. Don’t peek for 70 minutes. Then take the lid off, let the pudding cool, and turn it out onto a pudding dish. Serve with cream. Serves 4.
(Recipe found in Wild Women in the Kitchen – 101 Rambunctious Recipes & 99 Tasty Tales)

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