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Published: Sunday, 3/10/2013

Thoughts of food: Home and far away


If my European travel plans proceed as scheduled, today I will be eating German foods in Schleiden, a small town near Cologne two hours from the Brussels airport. From there we will drive to Antwerp to board a river cruise ship for more authentic ethnic cuisine. My taste buds tingle as I think about the hearty foods and Belgian chocolate.

That’s one reason my annual spring diet won’t start until after this trip, which just happens to be on St. Patrick’s Day. Call it the luck of the Irish to get home in time for a Jiggs dinner. Why kid myself that I will stick to half portions, no dessert, and water in places I likely will never return to?

Back home, it’s a different story. We can return to a restaurant often if we want to and if the budget allows. Right now I am having serious thoughts about whether to spend money and time again in places that left a bad taste in my mouth.

An incident in a Toledo restaurant regarding bread pudding is still hard to swallow. I consider bread pudding to be one of the all-time great comfort foods using ordinary ingredients: bread, eggs, milk, and sugar. It also is one of the most misused.

I don’t salivate when I see it on a menu as I once did, but I still occasionally take a chance hoping that someone in the kitchen will prepare it properly.

My hope for a pudding like my mother’s and grandmother’s is rarely satisfied. Theirs was mixed and baked as it is supposed to be with a golden brown top covering a moist, light, sweet bread layer and at the bottom a thick layer of smooth, creamy custard made with plenty of eggs. A warm vanilla or bourbon sauce occasionally made it a cut above everyday dessert.

The original pudding calls for stale white bread, but many cooks today use about every other kind of bread, including pumpernickel, brioche, raisin, whole wheat, and even hamburger buns.

So recently I gave it another try and after two bites I realized the pudding was not warm enough. It was dry with no sauce, and worse, it was a corner piece with a crisp chewy inedible edge.

I suggested that the corner pieces should not be served. The manager had an incredible answer. Every pan has four corners, he said, so it would be wasteful not to serve them. Being told there are four corners in a pan was insulting. I wanted to say, “no kidding.”

According to my 2012 restaurant receipts I patronized that restaurant nine times.

Will there be a 10th?

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.

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