Filed under: Food Geography & Culture, recipes | Tags: culture, holiday greetings, InCUBATE, interfaith dialogue, middle eastern cooking, noah's pudding, potluck, residency, traditions, turkey
As we were proceeding through our tour of Chicago winter farmers’ markets a couple of weeks ago, Anne took me on a side trip to a middle eastern grocery store in Andersonville. Middle Eastern and North African folks happen to be among the world’s largest per capita wheat consumers – Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia and Iran all rank in the top ten, according to statistics from the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization. The grocery carried an appropriately large variety of wheat and wheat-based products – cracked wheat, bulghur, semolina flour, several different varieties of wheat berries, pasta, and fresh-baked pita bread. Most intriguing, was the bag of pearled wheat berries from a Turkish importer labeled “Wheat for Noah’s Pudding.” No explanation or recipe on the package, so of course I had to buy it and turn to that great library in the sky, the Internet.
Noah’s Pudding, it turns out, is a very special traditional dish in Turkey. Legend has it that back in biblical times, when the waters receded from the great flood, Noah cooked up all the grains, nuts and fruit that were left on the Ark into a tasty stew of a dessert to celebrate and give thanks. Recipes therefore vary depending on the source, but all of them include one or two different types of grains (wheat, barley and rice are all common), cooked with one or two types of beans (chickpeas and white beans, typically), some sugar and some geographically appropriate dried fruits (apricots, figs, raisins). Nuts (walnuts, almonds or pistachios) and pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top along with some cinnamon and even rose water for a bit of a gourmet touch. It’s served cold or at room temperature, and is sort of a cross between oatmeal and rice pudding. I’m usually not so much for pudding-y things and was dubious about the inclusion of the beans, but the combination of textures and flavors was surprisingly good (next time I do want to try the rosewater).
Perhaps I was inclined to like it because I was so pleased to find a dish that mirrored on a small scale what Industrial Harvest is actually all about. Both Muslim and Christians in Turkey and other places around the Mediterranean prepare it as a gesture of sharing and goodwill between different peoples and religions. It’s customarily made at a certain time of year, prepared in huge batches (if you search online for recipes, you’ll find they make 30 portions or more) and shared among neighbors and the poor – tradition dictates giving a cup to 40 neighbors to the east, west, north and south, no matter their race, religion or how you may feel about them. In more recent times, religious and cultural organizations (particularly those with interfaith or intercultural ideals) in the US have picked up on this tradition and use it to celebrate goodwill between religions and cultures. I shared my batch with my fellow students at the Adventure School for Ladies, with plenty left over to serve at the InCUBATE symposium potluck the following night.
For those of us who have been turned off by the dogma, judgment, money and politics that is unfortunately associated with religion, Noah’s Pudding seems a refreshingly straightforward and tasty way to generate actual goodwill. So make some and share it. Happy holidays!
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