Last week I wrote about how my interest in cooking originated with the time I spent at my maternal grandparents’ home and how I watched not only their maid Cecilia but also my grandmother, aunt and cousins making stuff in the kitchen for dinner since the ‘big’ meal of the day was lunch, and after that we were pretty left to our own devices.
Given the positive response I got from so many readers (mostly through email – please add comments to the blog!!!), I thought I’d share a few more memories about those days.
My grandma Adalgiza had one heck of a sweet tooth and that there always were tons of desserts in her fridge, going from Brazilian standards like condensed milk pudding (pudim de leite condensado) and chocolate cake to more regional fare such as “Bolo Luis Felipe,” which is a moist cake made with tons of eggs, butter and coconut, or other desserts whose names I can no longer remember.
My parents were not really into sweets (as far as I can remember), so there was never any abundance of goodies in our Spartan fridge except maybe for some cake. I have a vague memory of my father buying chocolate bars in bulk but keeping them out of reach – or so he thought – in his weird hiding places. Like his mother before him, he believed sweets were some kind of reward, not something you were supposed to enjoy all the time – no wonder that schmuck was always such a sourpuss.
Whenever I was in Fortaleza, however, it was like the doors of paradise were just opened. Almost the same happened at my aunt Telma’s home, where cookies were always available in the TV room where my older cousins congregated with their friends (she and my uncle Gerardo always had unexpected visitors at lunchtime, so they always had plenty of food at the table) But at my grandparents’ it was always homemade, and it made a world of difference to the taste buds. Of course, I was probably around ten at the time, so the fact that my aunt and uncle’s had a pool was all that mattered, so I was happy to eat whatever processed food they gave me as long as I could stay in the pool as long as I could – to the point that grandma would sometimes complain that I never spent any time with them. “Look Ernest,” she once told me, “you are the youngest grandson but your aunt Mirna is pregnant – so enjoy that status while you can.”
Of course I did not listen, because I was having too much fun being the little guy. When my cousin did come along (and many others after that, including my sister), I did not feel much of a difference, since my grandparents did not pick favorites among us even if my grandfather would have a few ‘choice’ words about his siblings every now and then.
But then again, who doesn’t?
Brazilian Style Condensed Milk Pudding
o 1 cup sugar ( for the caramel)
o 1 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
o 14 ounces milk ( use the can to measure)
o 3 eggs
1. Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and preheat to 325°.
2. Put the sugar in the ring mold. Place the mold directly over medium heat. Keep turning the mold until the sugar melts into a golden brown caramel and spoon it up the sides of the mold.
3. Be careful not to burn the sugar and yourself.
4. I use an oven mitt to hold the mold in my left hand and a large spoon for the sugar in my right hand.
5. This way I can keep turning the mold and spooning the sugar. Let the mold cool.
6. Combine the condensed milk, regular milk and eggs in a blender. Whip (I like to use the frappe button in my blender) until smooth.
7. Pour this mixture into the mold and place it in the center of the roasting pan with water.
8. Bake the pudim for about 1 hour. It will turn golden brown on top and start separating from the sides of the mold. Let it cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator, preferably overnight (at least 6 hours).
9. Just before serving, run the tip of a knife around the inside of the mold. Place a deep platter over the mold and invert: the pudim should slide out easily.
10. If not, give the mold a firm but careful shake. Spoon the caramel sauce on top and serve. Serves about 10.