Change and tradition do a never-ending dance around the holidays, don’t they? For our newly-bigger family this year, change took the lead role. Since we moved to Seattle 6 years ago, we’d driven down to Portland to visit family on or before December 23rd each Christmas, so as to not miss out on one moment of the holiday there. But this landmark year of 2012, we decided to spend Christmas Eve morning in our Seattle home. We sat around our bedecked tree cradling steaming bowls of rice pudding and watched Cadel chew the ribbon of his first Christmas gift. Then we packed up and headed south as we always do.
It was a small gesture but a significant one, to start weaving our own threads into the fabric of holidays past. Change is the lifeblood of our human experience (and doesn’t our world need it, especially now?), but tradition is the richness that nourishes and sustains us through this journey; it is stuff of memories. The greatest Christmas gift my parents ever gave me is shared remembrances of our annual holiday rituals–eating chicken paprikash with my grandparents, attending the vigil Mass, reading the Polar Express and the pop-up version of The Night Before Christmas, setting out the carrots and kolacky for Santa and the reindeer, and Roger Whittaker, of course. This same gift I hope to give to Cadel in the years and Christmas wonders to come. So begins a new era for us. Change is good.
I had grand plans to start a Christmas Eve breakfast tradition of yeast-risen waffles, but… we had extra rice from our stir-fry the night before, and as we were leaving town and not wanting to waste, I made an impromptu rice pudding instead. Creamy and comforting, it is just the thing to warm the belly on Christmas morn or night.
Jasmine rice pudding
1/4C + 2T sugar
3 C whole milk
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
1/2 good vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 C cooked jasmine rice (basmati would be good as well), cooled or cold
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
freshly grated lemon zest, for topping
Combine the sugar, milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt in a pot and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the rice, breaking up any clumps; add the raisins too. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, until thickened. Add the cardamom, spoon into bowls, and grate lemon zest over the top of each serving. Makes 2 large portions or 3-4 smaller ones.