A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Arroz Con Leche & The Señorita From San Nicolás
Monday, December 07, 2009

Today I spotted a pan with a couple of cups of two-day old white rice and suddenly I longed for arroz con leche.

Arroz con Leche

Arroz con leche,
Me quiero casar
con una señorita de San Nicolás,
que sepa bordar,
que sepa tejer,
que sepa abrir la puerta par ir a jugar.

Con ésta sí
con ésta no,
con esta señorita me caso yo

Rice pudding
I want to marry
a señorita from San Nicolás,
she must know how to embroider
she must know how to knit,
she must know how to open the door to go out and play.

With this one yes
with this one no,
this señorita I will marry.

Since I can remember I knew the lyrics to this song. It is sung in Spain and everywhere else the Spaniards went. The Argentine version includes the town of San Nicolás which is in the Province of Buenos Aires.

Anbody who reads this might be surprised that I consider myself a connoisseur of the lowly postre (dessert) that many Latin American dismiss until they miss it.

The principal ingredients are rice, milk, sugar and a pinch of salt. Some add (I do) lemon or orange zest, vanilla (I do), a cinnamon stick (I do) and fewer still cardamom. Cardamon is a late ingredient for me as in India rice pudding is a specialty and cardamom is an important ingredient. I had not tried this Indian version until a couple of years ago. The cardamon somehow makes the cold pudding seem colder and ever more refreshing. I would never put raisins in my pudding. It would seem to me as uncouth as slathering catsup on French fries or smashing saltines over any kind of chowder. Juan Manuel Sanchez, my Argentine artist friend, made a killer rice pudding but he added slices of lemon which in my mind ruined it. The final touch to ice cold (not hot pudding for me) arroz con leche is a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon.

I have had arroz con leche in hundreds of places, in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Perú, Mexico and Texas. Would you believe that the best rice pudding I ever had was on the Spirit of Vancouver ferry buffet on my way to Vancouver Island? I would kill for that recipe. Somehow the chef does not cook the milk too much as the pudding is a startling white concoction that contrasts most favorably to my yellowed version which I cook for hours so that the milk and the sugar caramelize.

It is 5pm and my pudding is cooling in the fridge. Rebecca spooned the pan and when I wasn’t watching helped herself to a bowl of the still hot dessert.

She might not yet know how to knit or embroider but Rebecca certainly could be that señorita from San Nicolás. She knows a good rice pudding when she sees one.

Both Rebecca and I will watch Lauren tonight and see if she will like it. This will be the ultimate test as Lauren is precisely demanding about that which she is willing to eat.


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