Rice Pudding, in Megan Elias’s “Growth of American Civilization, 1600-1877”

Rice Pudding


  • 1 cup of rice
  • ½ gallon of milk
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • crushed almonds (optional)
  • ground cinnamon to taste (optional)
  • cloves (optional)


  1. Bring ½ gallon of milk to a boil in a pot.
  2. Add 1 cup of rice into the boiling milk and mix frequently. Do not let the rice take to the bottom!
  3. Once the rice is cooked, reduce the heat to a low and add ½ cup of sugar and stir it till the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Add cinnamon to your taste and cloves, which are both optional.
  5. Top it off with some crushed almonds if you like!

This recipe represents the author’s main point in that it shows a more diverse type of food which other cultures may have had to adapt to. The article demonstrates how many different ingredients, spices and flavors were shared by the Spanish and the Central American cultures, bringing them as one. A lot of these spices and flavors had evolved and were passed on to the newer generations, many of which are still used till this day. For instance, in the recipe above it uses rice, sugar and almond which come mainly from India. The other cultures, such as the westernmost point of Muslims’ had to try to adapt to these different crops. In addition, the western Muslims transformed these ingredients into a rather sophisticated cooking. However, it is clear that rice and sugar is especially common to present day cultures. All in all, the author’s main point is that a lot of the commonly used spices nowadays actually needed people to adapt to it first, and slowly began to evolve as it was passed on.

The Spaniards who followed the leaders in the Spanish conquests of America, Mexico, and Peru, food meant health, status, race, and religion. The wealthy ones actually used rice, sugar and almonds, as the ingredient above uses, which was transported from the East. In other cases, almonds, cinnamon and cloves were used in a very famous Mexican dish called mole poblano, which for them balanced pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and early modern Spain cooking. The recipe above also uses milk, which in Spain represented the height of modernity and difficulty. However, milk was outside of their everyday ingredients. Many of these ingredients were slowly brought in due to the new world and became acceptable to many Spanish diets. Nevertheless, they did not change their own beliefs of what was considered to be “higher” in society, which still separated them apart from one another, such as the Native Indians.

In addition, this dish was adopted into the Mexican culture with a similar dish called Empanadas de Arroz con Leche, also known as rice pudding turnovers. This recipe consists of almost the same ingredients as above with a few modifications. For instance, the rice pudding turnover also uses flour tortillas and vegetable oil. The flour tortillas, once again, were used in mole poblano. The Spaniards were very fond of tortillas. Tortillas were brought about by the native women because it was the only manner they knew to prepare wheat. They were eaten with many side dishes and fillings made from local vegetables. However, we see that instead of the fillings being made of vegetables, the rice pudding turnovers are filled with flavorful rice. The Native Americans typically planted corn as opposed to wheat, partially because it was expensive to mill and bake. Furthermore, Peruvian dishes contained similar ingredients to mole, which also confirms the tie between the Spanish foods and the Creoles of New Spain. A typical recipe for chicken used oil. Another recipe for chicken would be to flour it and then fry it in oil. We see that rice pudding, which began as a mixture of South Asian, Arabian and European dishes, ultimately evolved into the culture of Mexico.

About meganelias

I am a cultural historian who writes about American food. I am the author of Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture (Penn Press, 2017), Stir it Up: Home Economics in American Culture,(Penn Press, 2008), Lunch: The History of a Meal (Rowman & LIttlefield, 2014) and "Food in the United States, 1890-1945," (Greenwood Press, 2009). My favorite food is toast.
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