Saturday, October 30, 2010

maple oatmeal steamed pudding

I know it's October and everything, but New England's got me, and I'm starting to think I might be set in my ways. There was controlled rebellion for so long, trial separations in the Southwest and California and even Europe. In the past, New England just was never other enough for me, essentially for that reason- it was not other at all. But I think I just might be older.
I'm starting to call myself a New Englander, even when it's unnecessary. All of these red and orange trees reaching into the crispest blue October sky, and three people this week have said to me, "If we go over to the tea party-ers, let's go to Canada."

Hell no. I love Canada, but I'll fight for Massachusetts. There's spirit in the ground of this place, I swear it. If things go poorly this week, I'm sticking around anyway.

I'm not saying it's easy. If there's one thing I'm learning as a local politician, it's that when it comes to money and property, the word "victim" gets thrown about a little too loosely, and the compassion and empathy are the first to go. I wrote a play about a small town selectboard meeting when I was in sixth grade, and it won a contest and actors put it on. The characters shook their fists at each other with silly threats. I thought it was probably an exaggeration--but it wasn't. Turns out I was dead on.

Sometimes all I can do is say, "eesh. I hope you're happier in other moments." I go home and I recommit to optimism. I read Amos and Boris to my children. I insist on believing in altruism.

New England will live on. We'll help each other through the winter--we'll share our last meal with our neighbor. We can make anything grow in the rockiest of soil. We can.

There is a New England thing called a steamed pudding. There are all sorts of them, but I must admit I'm often scared off by the descriptions of molds that need to be made involving coffee cans and wires. A steamed pudding is made in a mold which must be slightly submerged in a vessel of water where it mustn't touch the bottom. Easy, I think, when you have some special pot hanging over the hearth, but I just couldn't figure out how to do it.

But then I took another look at my canning pot. And I realized that it was more than just a canning pot. It was a steamed pudding pot. Reason number 47 to love your canning pot.

Sadie woke me up last weekend by gently hitting me over the head with Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book, which incidentally is one of those books that makes me happy just to hold it in my hands.
"What are we making for breakfast?"
I grumbled something about how she should figure it out and I would join her as soon as I finished my dream.
And that is how we came to make maple oatmeal steamed pudding.

If you like oatmeal but don't like how sticky and glutinous it is, this is a revelation. It is steamed oats, really, so every oat holds its shape, and the maple syrup blends into the fiber of every single oat. It's a little custardy, and really quite wonderful and simple.

I can take these late night meetings filled with fist shaking. I can take them, as long as there's an optimistic breakfast the next day.

Maple Oatmeal Steamed Pudding
from Marion Cunningham, The Breakfast Book

4 cups rolled oats
3 cups milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt

Butter a 1 1/2 quart souffle dish or mold or even a small cast iron dutch oven. Set the wire rack in your canning pot, and fill with enough water so that it will come up about halfway up the sides of the interior dish. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, combine the oats, milk, maple syrup and salt in the dish and stir well. Cover with a lid or a piece of foil. Put the dish on the wire rack in the canning pot, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the canning pot and cook for 1 hour.


  1. I love steamed food. There is a sense that you are not cooking something to death but that steam is gently permeating the food and plumping it up. I love the concept of steamed anything, veggies, puddings, dumplings...

  2. MMM. Comfort. Just the perfect thing for these tumultuous times. And maple oatmeal -- it's perfectly New England.