A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants…

I have great fondness for the ridiculous. I can’t help it, it runs in my family. My dad was once helping a rather shnockered woman onto a canal boat and one of her shoes fell into the canal. As she cried “my SHOE!” Dad reached down, grabbed the other shoe and tossed it overboard too. “Well, you won’t be needing this one then!” Yup, genetic – my whole family suffers from it. We just can’t help loving the ridiculous, goofy, and silly. I would have been the one like Mary Tyler Moore, consumed by body-wrenching panty-wetting giggles during Chuckles the Clown’s funeral. There’s no sense in shushing me – it only makes it worse. Can you stop laughing when someone tells you to, especially when they give you that “you’d better stop or ELSE” look? Worse yet, that’s usually when my uncontrollable snorts emerge. And it’s not just in the sad times. Imagine trying to get fired up during phone sex with your someone and she starts giggling during the “ooo, baby babies.” Sure you can try to hold on, but when uncontrollable laughter is emanating from the other end of the line, it pretty much deflates the purpose. Ok, so my timing wasn’t good, but seriously it really IS a pretty ridiculous thing to do, don’t you think?

The good news is silly can get you through some pretty awful times. In fact, I believe it’s one of my best coping skills. Funerals, broken hearts, job loss, fear, the hopelessness that things will never get better — all these and more can be soothed by some uncontrollable giggles. Even if it only lasts for a few moments. So what if gasping laughter gives way to sobbing? It’s a release either way and better out than in I say. Yes it happens at ‘inappropriate’ times, but that’s usually when you need it most. Plus holding in a laughter-induced snort is damn near impossible and there’s really no use in trying. You might sprain something important. So to all the giggle gaggers and snort stiflers out there, I suggest you just go with it. Hell, join in! It’ll do you a world of good too. There’s plenty time to be serious so give silliness it’s due. Sometimes the surest way to feel better is a little song, a little dance, a seltzer down your pants…

When I’m looking for a little culinary silliness, I head toward pudding. Perhaps it’s the comfort-food aspect, or the tactile goofiness, or maybe just how silly the word pudding sounds. Whatever it is, you just can’t stay sad with a big bowl full of pudding and a spoon.  I found this recipe years ago in a copy of Real Simple magazine and it’s been my go-to recipe ever since. It’s as easy as the cook & serve box mix, takes about the same time, has nothing in it you can’t pronounce and tastes WAY better. And depending on how creative you are feeling, you can add in a little cinnamon, a little ancho chilli powder, switch out the vanilla for almond extract, add a little orange liqueur, etc. Whatever is going to put that well needed giggle in your mouth.

Chocolate pudding (adapted from Real Simple)

Makes 8  half-cup servings, or one BIG bowl, when it’s been that kind of day…

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 3 cups whole milk (I’ve used 2% and it works just fine)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. bitter-sweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I like bittersweet, but if that’s too strong a flavor for you, use semi-sweet or a combo of both)
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Add in 1/3 cup of the milk, stirring to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk and the egg yolks.

Cook the pudding over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with spatula until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Do not let it boil – if it’s at the stage when a few tiny bubbles are forming, turn off the heat – it’s done.

Add in the chopped chocolate and the vanilla extract and stir until the mixture is smooth. Pour into 8 4-oz. ramekins, custard cups, tea cups, etc.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours. You can make these up to 2 days ahead of serving (yeah, like you could actually keep out of them for that long…) Calories – 275/serving.

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