“Cornelius, let's arrange a signal for you to give me.
If it's really an adventure, give me a signal. Say a word.
Say, like 'Pudding'.
All right, Barnaby. For adventure, 'Pudding'.”
(from the Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder)
“So, what are you making?”
I was caught by surprise and didn't even look around. I didn't have to. It had been some time since Mo, aka Marshmallow the Opinion Fairy, had come to visit, but I would have known her voice anywhere, anytime. I wasn't going to answer, but she had startled me and I'd almost dropped the pot of rice.
“Horchata. Don't talk for a minute, okay?!”
I heard a small hrrumph sort of sound and miraculously, it was quiet. I made Mo sit while I buzzed the rice mixture up in the blender then poured it through the sieve. Only when it was done, did I turn around and greet my old friend.
Mo: Old friend? Come on, I'm not so old.
Me: Don't get huffy, you know what I mean.
Mo: So, what's up with the horchata? It's not your usual Christmas treat.
Me: I know, but it sounded really good this year and I wanted to try making it.
Mo: Meaning, you've never made it before? What time is everyone coming over?
Me: Not till 4. You're welcome to stay.
It was nice to see her again, even though I knew she'd be challenging me at every turn. Already she was questioning my horchata. Really.
Mo: Thank you. I think I will stay. What else is for dinner? It smells good.
Me: Vegetable soup, chili, salad, squash and apples, carrots and green beans.
Mo: Sounds awfully healthy.
Me: Well, there's pumpkin pie, too. I made it with coconut milk and gluten free cookie crumbs in the crust.
Mo: What about your truffles? You always make truffles for Christmas.
Me: Not this year.
Mo: What? Why?
Me: We've been busy. Emma and I have been to Chicago twice in the last five weeks, we had lots of parties to attend, and then everyone got stomach flu. Besides, I'm trying to keep to a healthy diet.
Mo: And making your family and friends suffer along with you.
Me: I doubt they'd want truffles right now. Anyway, I'm kind of on my own here. Everyone else is still recouperating. Got to keep it simple.
Mo: Which means making horchata?
Me: I want something special and a nice cup of hot, spicy horchata sounds really good.
Mo: Hot? I thought it was served over ice.
Me: I know. All the recipes I've found say to serve it cold, but I've only had it hot. It can't be too difficult, can it? All I have to do is heat it up. I'm going to put it in the crock pot and keep it warm.
Now, if you wouldn't mind stirring the soup, I'll pour this into the crock pot, then start getting the dishes out.
We worked together for awhile. I was grateful for the help and the company. To be fair, my family had helped with a lot of the preparation earlier in the day, cutting up vegetables and such, but for the last hour or so, I had been working alone. Now, with Mo's help, everything was coming together. She even dusted the living room furniture.
After another hour had passed, we decided to give the horchata a taste test. I lifted the lid of the crock pot and dipped the ladle into the creamy hot mixture. The ladle came up out of the depths with a “gloooop” sound and what was inside looked like congealed oatmeal. I almost cried.
Mo: Uh, oh. What happened?
Me: I don't know, but I certainly can't serve this up to anyone.
Mo: Which is too bad, considering you've got about 3 gallons of it.
Me: There's got to be something we can do. Any inspirations?
Mo: Sorry. Wrong fairy. The Inspiration Fairy is my 3rd cousin. If you want my opinion...
Me: I'll ask for it. Until then, unless you have something nice to say or can work a miracle, don't.. say... anything.
No, she didn't start swearing. Something started to escape, but she clapped her hand over her mouth just in time. I was pleased. I still have an effective teacher look.
A few minutes later, she crept quietly up and tapped my arm. The next thing I knew, she had flown through the air backwards and had landed on top of the dog. I turned my teacher look on the dog and Mo escaped with only an affectionate lick. I helped her up.
Mo: What did you do that for? I didn't even say anything.
Me: I'm sorry, Mo. My meds are wearing off. It's not safe to surprise me right now. I never know what my arms will do when that happens.
Mo: Okay, okay. Give me a towel. Is it okay if I suggest something?
I handed her a washcloth and nodded. It was the least I could do.
Mo: Make rice pudding. It's congealing anyway, and it smells really good.
So, together we looked up a recipe for baked rice pudding. My mixture was congealed to the point where it wouldn't pour into the baking dish. I added a little bit of almond milk and a couple of beaten eggs. This was going to work!
We were ready. Dinner was done, the house was clean, the buffet table was set up, and the pudding was in the oven. Time to rest a little. I poured some Bailey's into a thimble sized cup for Mo and we sat back and chatted for awhile. When everyone came, I turned to introduce Mo, but she had vanished. Maybe she was afraid of my grandchildren.
Mo: I am NOT afraid of your grandchildren, I'm just not feeling very social right now.
Her voice had come from the direction of the Christmas tree. I looked over, but couldn't see where she was hiding. Once everyone arrived and was served, I put some dinner out for Mo on the fork of one of the branches. We had a wonderful evening. The little ones played and opened presents, and the rest of us talked together.
All too soon it was time for our evening to end. We said Merry Christmas and hugged and watched everyone as they went out into the cold night. When the door was locked and my family had drifted off to their various corners of the house, Mo came out from the tree.
Mo: How was the pudding?
Mo: You know, the stuff you put in the oven to bake?
After startling, Mo began to laugh and laugh. I went in, turned off the oven and opened the door, fully expecting to find a rice loaf, a rice brick, or just simply rice hardened onto the baking dish. I took it out and did what the recipe told me to do. I checked for doneness with a knife. For some reason, Mo collapsed in giggles again. To my surprise, the knife didn't bounce off, but it didn't come out clean, either. I dipped a spoon in the pudding and it came out with a glooop noise and the stuff inside the spoon was the consistency of congealed cream of wheat.
We were making progress.
Not deterred, I spooned some into dishes for Mo and me. Then I added a little Bailey's. I think we just invented something new. It's not bad.
Just don't ask me how to make it.