Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

This was not instant pudding, our treat’s lesser sib found next to it in the Jello aisle. We ate only the cooked kind. “My-T-Fine”. The pudding in the rectangular box with the waxy paper envelope inside that you’d tear to pour out the fine light brown powder. And only chocolate.

It wasn’t how he made the chocolate pudding -- although he made it the hard way. Powder emptied into a pot. Milk added and stirred and stirred again over the gas fire until thick and bubbling with cocoa gasses burping out hot globules of steaming pudding onto the sides of the metal pot. Some sputterings made their way to form tiny puddles on the white surface of our white four burner stove. Each puddle destined to become outlines of splashes drawn in hardened pudding after a cloth would wipe away the still soft middles leaving only the edges that had already cooled and stuck firm. Stovetop artifacts of our sweets.

After the liquid thickened, he would pour the hot liquid into two bowls, one for me and one for my sister. He would push and scrape the pudding off the sides and bottom of the pot to form a little river of sweet mudslide flowing out into the waiting bowls. The time it took for my father to turn from the stove, walk to the refrigerator and return with the half pint of heavy cream would allow just enough time for a thin skin to form on and cover the resting pudding. Cool on top, gently resistant and when punctured with a spoon, revealing of the molten mass of chocolate underneath. The skin conveniently provided a cream-proof surface allowing the little white mote of slippery fat pooled to form around the edges of my bowl. That was good.

The first spoonful was taken from the side - where the pudding had molded to the edge of the bowl into a curve that mirrored the shallow rounding of my spoon. On the spoon sat a semi-circle of pudding, warm for my mouth but with the cool slick of heavy cream ready to coat my tongue in its viscous lusciousness.

The first bite was the best bite. The ultimate in a pudding composition: smooth, warm and thick across my tongue. The flavor hit with chocolate deep like the taste embodiment of the density of the pudding’s quivering body.

When the bowls were poured, while my sister and I were spooning the pudding into our pleased child mouths, my father would help himself to his portion. It was an aesthete’s helping. Although not wholly stoic, my father took his share with an element of self-denial. He ate only what remained of the treat he prepared clinging to the already scraped down sides of the pudding pot; spooning the streaks and mining the corners of the pot for the last pools of sweet soft mush. That was the way he ate his chocolate pudding; happily gobbling up what was left over from his children.

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