Sunday, October 23, 2011

of mac & cheese and chocolate pudding

i made cheater pudding last night.
sounds intriguing, until you realize that i just opened a box of my T fine and added the soy milk. but to me, it's cheating. because it's not from scratch. not that i ever make chocolate pudding that's not from scratch. not that i ever make pudding more than a few times a year, when i remember that i can.
i remember going to the supermarket with my mom when i was a kid. we'd walk through the jello aisle and occasionally we'd pick out a box of jello, usually of the red or orange family. but the puddings? nope. never. no way. we just weren't a pudding family. for some reason, jello, made from pig bone-derived gelatin, artificial colorings and sugar, was bound to be a better choice than pudding, made from cocoa, sugar and milk. and that's okay, because we weren't a mac and cheese family, either. in fact, i'd only tasted a box of kraft cheese & mac once, while sleeping over some kid's apartment in the projects. of course, i then figured that if you lived in the projects, you were probably eating kraft dinner. however, i was also fed roast at her house and smurfberry crunch over there, so my worldview was pretty skewed for a seven-year old. let me add that my husband, who did not grow up in the projects, was quite experienced with kraft macaroni and cheese and chocolate pudding, which his mom used to make all of the time.
the next time i had mac and cheese was at my house, when i was in high school and wanted to cook something. i convinced my mom to let me make a baked mac & cheese casserole for supper, from a recipe i'd found in the joy of cooking. (in retrospect, i do believe that the title of that book is a definite misnomer, as the more recipes i tried from there, the less joy i found in cooking, and it wasn't until i branched out to other books did i realize that i could find much happiness in cooking, as long as i stayed away from the joy.) so i grated the cheddar, poured the milk, boiled the pasta, melted the butter, added the mustard. i baked the thing at required temperature for the required time. i made a salad. i served the meal. i realized that i couldn't stand macaroni and cheese.
i attempted mac and cheese again when i was in college. this time with two friends (one whom i later married), a brick of velveeta, and some pasta. or maybe we were just eating it on crackers. at any rate, my stomach was not having it. easy come, easy go.
marriage brought wacky mac at our house and pudding at my mother-in-law's house. chocolate pudding. poured into individual bowls. awaiting eager mouths after whatever meal she served (take out/turkey/pizza/steaks) and awaiting the cream that was balanced on the skin--THE SKIN!!!!!--of the pudding.
my mother-in-law's cheater chocolate pudding brought back a vague memory of me looking longingly at the refrigerated cases at various diners, in which plates of sliced cakes, pies and oh! stemmed glass bowls of chocolate pudding topped with a spray of whipped cream were housed. the one time i ordered one, i was surprised at its texture. it was somewhat gelatinous and smooth, but not as delicate as new jello. it was more like the tougher bottom skin--skin!!!!--that forms when the jello isn't mixed well enough. except that this pudding was thick. at least the top was thick. the rest was somewhat creamy, and not as sweet as i'd have liked. but i had to eat it since i'd requested this as my one desire. i wasn't impressed.
my mother-in-law's chocolate pudding was sweeter and, what i realized later, much fresher. it was made with love and mixed with manipulation, bitchiness and criticism. sure, there was that skin on top. my husband says it's the best part.
last night, i served this pudding. my T fine. it took me until i had kids to realize that there was no such thing as a "T fine" and that the "my T" was supposed to be "mighty." i can't believe they paid advertising execs to come up with that. but, as usual, i digress. i put the bowls on the table in front of the kids.
"it has a skin," A, my almost seven year old said.
"i think that's supposed to be the best part," i replied.
my oldest ate it. my youngest poked at it. my four year old refused to eat it."the stuff in the cups from the store is better," he said. my almost seven year old demanded a different dessert. "it has a skin," he repeated. "it's like butt pudding. i can't eat this." he proceeded to play a song on his armpit.
i tasted it but the word "epidermis" kept popping up in my head, bringing back memories of junior high science classes and the seemingly inevitable reality that maybe i'm just not a chocolate pudding person. i can live with that.

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be kind.