I tweak the pudding.

Mine is like the 4th from the top, only dirtier.

In the first decade of my married life my primary cooking teachers were Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, in the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking. That was long before this age when one can find overwhelming amounts of information about any food or recipe at the click of a mouse, and before we watched “Julie and Julia” and found out that the cookbook my mother had given me for a wedding present was suspect.

The women who published the book in various forms beginning in the 30’s were not the same sort of cooks as those we know today, we who have the likes of Julia Child and M.F.K. Fisher to inspire us. Irma was grieving the loss of her husband in 1930 when she followed the advice of others and got busy making a book out of her collection of recipes that had been gathered to teach a class in the 20’s.

Irma S. Rombauer

Marion wrote a biographical sketch of her mother, in which she admits that her mother was not known for her great cooking. To which I add, it really was not the era for that. Many of the households that had the resources to spend on a variety of ingredients had hired help to cook for them, which I noticed early on was the case with the Rombauers, because in my copy they mention conversationally, and give a recipe for, the matchless poultry dressing their cook made. The kitchen help, expert as they might be, would not be in a position to publish cookbooks, so as Marion reasoned, “cookbook writing is too important to be left to the cooks.”

But for women who were increasingly responsible for preparing meals for their own families, and who had time and means to study and learn from books, the Rombauer women did a good service. I like what Christopher Kimball wrote for the Amazon.com listing of the book, about Irma’s “amateur but highly evolved enthusiasm.” After all this revisiting I plan to get a copy of the latest revision and see how it has changed, now that Irma’s descendants are bringing to it their own flair and abilities. On the Joy website I found a likeable personal tone and appetizing recipes, but the cooks don’t give away all of the book’s recipes online.

The Rombauer/Becker Family marked their own favorite recipes in the edition I own with the name “Cockaigne” after the name of their summer home, and that label served me as online reader reviews do nowadays, helping me know that at least a few people really liked that particular casserole or cake or whatever.

While my little children played nearby or took their naps, in the days before I could be distracted by reading or writing blog posts, I sat at the kitchen table and pored over Joy, making a list of all the “Cockaigne” recipes that appealed to me. The only one I remember now without looking it up, perhaps the only thing I tried more than once, was Tomato Pudding Cockaigne.

Kate shows fruit from yesteryear’s garden.

On a recent blog post somewhere I read mention of Scalloped Tomatoes, and I found online many recipes for that dish, which seemed to resemble the tomato pudding I hadn’t made in 20 years. It was labeled as Southern Cooking on many websites. Do all of you southern ladies make scalloped tomatoes?

At first it sounded like the perfect way to use up some of my fresh tomatoes, and perhaps also in the winter, to use some of the bags full that I have been freezing. Except that there seemed to be more bread and sugar than I care to consume in the various versions….eventually I gave up looking at them and went back to my old recipe, which I discovered also calls for quite a bit of sugar — six tablespoons to go with 14 tomatoes — but why? These are garden-ripe, sweet tomatoes I’m bringing in by the bowlful.

Joy’s recipe also didn’t have enough basil for me, and included no garlic. It called for only a small quantity of bread crumbs, and I hoped that if I added a larger quantity of bread the juice would be soaked up faster and the dish might take only two hours instead of three to cook down.

So…here you have it,

Gretchen’s California Tomato Pudding

14 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, sliced

1/3 cup fresh chopped basil leaves

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 extra-large clove garlic. minced

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 cups fresh sourdough bread crumbs

6 tablespoons melted (salted) butter

Put the tomatoes in a pan on the stovetop, and heat to the boiling point. Stir in the herbs, garlic, and sugar. Cover the bottom of a 9×12 baking dish with the bread, and pour the melted butter over it. Ladle the tomato mixture on top of the crumbs, and bake uncovered at 350° for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until it is no longer watery. Serve warm.

While my pudding was in the oven I typed out the above, and waited to see if  the finished product would be worthy of sharing. Oh my, yes, it is delectable and so hard to stop eating. I guess my husband and I ate about five tomatoes worth each.

I could further tweak a few things, make it a couple more times to assure consistency and give you a more thorough report, but this is only a blog after all, so I will just say that I’m pretty sure it would be just as good with a little less butter and sugar. I imagine it tasting great made with olive oil, if you prefer vegan fare. But Mr. Glad said, “Whatever you did to make it like this, it was perfect.”

12 thoughts on “I tweak the pudding.

  1. It sounds and looks wonderful. I like your recipe just fine. I used to spend my time pouring over cookbooks when the kids were small. It was such a new world and I wanted to fix everything. Now, I think we eat simpler than we did then.
    I hope next year to have lots of tomatoes so I can fix this. I wish I had tomatoes today as I would fix it for lunch.
    Have a wonderful week.

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  2. Mmmm — glad you achieved PERFECTION for Mr. Glad!! 🙂 I've been a Southerner all my life, and I've never heard of either tomato pudding or scalloped tomatoes. Must be some new fad. I have heard of tomato pie, and that seems to be a popular way to use up tomatoes in the summer. But most Southern women just can tomatoes or tomato sauce for use in winter. And tomato/mayo sandwiches 🙂

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  3. I had a neighbor/good friend who used JOY. She was a very good cook, too! I used Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens. Oh, and remember the More With Less Cookbook? And Laurel's Kitchen?

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  4. I've never known what “Cockaigne” meant–I thought it was a cooking term! I have the 1964 Joy of Cooking, formerly my mom's, and make the Brownies Cockaigne frequently.

    I am a southerner who does not make scalloped tomatoes. Your tomato recipe looks wonderful! Sadly, we had a terrible tomato season. Next summer!

    xofrances

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  5. I have the green Joy of Cooking from my grandmother and am glad now to know what Cockaigne means – I thought it meant something from a region in France! I should read the introduction more closely. I love the entertaining advice, but primarily use the cookbook for cake and pie recipes.

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  6. what a coincindence is here for me personally; just this past Saturday, in an effort to save the last half cup of sour cream that would sour indefinitely soon if I did not use it, I was pouring through my three versions of joy of cooking; I am more and more drawn to the way things were done before and find myself drawn to the old cookbooks; so many are I think; I ponder it often.

    Lovely tweak of a recipe; I think that is what cookbooks are for; spring boards to teach us and to capture not only ways of cooking, but decades and modes of it. somehow it captures the era of it, at least to me.

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  7. What's not to love — bread and tomatoes? Yum! I have a newer version of The Joy and it's been a long time companion to me in the kitchen. I never knew what the Cockaign term meant. Thanks for explaining that.

    ~Jody

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