Thomas Jefferson and the Rice Pudding

3 02 2010

As long as I’m thinking about Memorials on the Mall (see last post), here’s a piece I wrote several years ago.  The bronze Thomas Jefferson standing guard next to the Potomac Tidal Basin plays prominently in this tale, but you’ve got to read the whole thing before that becomes apparent…..


It’s extra credit time in Spanish II again.  Every quarter my son’s teacher offers some paltry amount of extra credit for preparing a Spanish dish to feed the class.  And ever the motivated student, he makes the effort, though it never seems to be enough to pull that B+ up to an A.

The first time I thought we had a winner with delicious gazpacho soup.  But I’m not your average high school freshman.  According to my offspring, his compatriots mostly took one look at something that resembled tomato juice with yucky vegetables and it was all over.

After that we decided to stick to desserts.  We found a recipe for wedding cookies.  Sugar on the inside and sugar on the outside.  What could be tastier?  In fact, they were to die for, except that having been rolled in powdered sugar they left a trail of white powder wherever they went…fingers, desks, floor.  I could imagine the teacher biting her tongue as she surveyed her snow covered room.

Not to be deterred, he decided to try one more time.  Given that it was fourth quarter, there weren’t a lot of options left, but a thorough search of various websites led to Arroz con Leche…rice pudding.  Rice, milk, sugar—how hard could it be?

To be on the safe side, we made a batch ahead of time.  What amazed me was how a dish made up of 99.9% white ingredients could turn out so…brown…or beige…or tan…or umber…not too appealing to look at.  The lumpy bits of rice contributed to the overall nasty appearance.  But in reality, it tasted quite good.  So good that I ended up eating loads more than I should have.  At that point we were ready for the real batch.  We made LOTS, as it’s a big class.

I eagerly awaited son’s return from school to find out how it had gone.  Alas, though he sat on the front row with the pudding sitting right there on his desk, his teacher didn’t allow class time to distribute it, and when he asked about it she claimed there wasn’t enough time left and blamed him for not reminding her.  (She’s a real gem.)

It was rescheduled for the next class period, which wasn’t for another four days.  Given that the pudding had already sat in his locker all day, I didn’t have the nerve to just refrigerate it and send it back later.  (Negative extra credit points for poisoning the class?)  So that was another batch that sat around the house waiting for me to consume it.  Which didn’t take all that long.

By batch number three we pretty much had it down to a science.  And that sickly shade of brown hardly bothered me at all.

Meanwhile, in English class my son was composing an essay about a family outing to the Jefferson Memorial during the cherry blossom festival when he was a first grader.  This excursion was  memorable because, as we approached Mr. Jefferson, the little tyke threw up right there at the Sage of Monticello’s feet.  The crowd, which had been tightly packed around us, immediately opened up. There was nary a custodian or Park Service ranger to be found. The story made for an amusing literary work.

I knew my guy had the proper perspective when he announced that if the Spanish thing didn’t work out, he’d take the brown goo to English and use it to reenact the Jefferson Memorial fiasco.

Addendum: Once again, his report card showed a B+.



One response

3 02 2010
Mary Lee

I remember you telling about those times and I remember being there on one or two occasions …. and here they are all grown up. I loved being there when they were was such a special time in our lives.

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