My friend Talilla took me adventuring the other day. A fine mist fell as we packed into the car, dog and bags and rain jackets jostling loudly.
We drove away from her house, past the East End playground and out towards the highway on Snail Road. At an old abandoned parking lot at the base of the dunes, we camoflauged the car behind a bush and piled out.
We wound up the sand track, rolling up and down the sea of dunes as we headed towards the water. The vegetation changed—trees gave way to shrubs, shrubs to beach grass, and finally sand to sea. The waves rolled in, crashing white, and we walked south along the shore.
It took us nearly a half hour to reach the bog. Talilla veered inland, suddenly, and there it was: a massive expanse of wild cranberries. The plants burned red. Growing amongst the berries were clumps of grass, and strange tan mushrooms the consistency of jello. We picked, stooped over, until we'd each filled a bag. The berries were firm, a deep scarlet, and big in hand.
When our backs began to ache, we straightened and turned home. We wandered back through the warm rain, searching out the expanse of pavement and the silver glint of my car. We hadn't picked much, I realized later, at home. A few cups, perhaps, barely enough for a pie. I wondered what to do with mine—a pudding, maybe a salad?
I found a few pudding recipes scattered online—most too sweet, one with rice, another with cinnamon and apples. But none were quite what I was looking for. It was morning, still, and I wanted a breakfast dish.
I decided to adapt a dessert pudding, cutting the sugar and raisins and adding an egg for thickness. The rest was easy: scalded milk, a cup of oatmeal, a few spoonfuls of sugar and the cranberries, halved. All told, it couldn't have taken more than 10 minutes to prepare, and after a half hour in the oven, it was ready to eat. I cleaned my bowl, twice, and scribbled the recipe down for safe keeping.
CRANBERRY OATMEAL BREAKFAST PUDDING
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, stir together 2 cups whole milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir well, and heat until very hot but not boiling. While you wait, half 2 cups fresh cranberries. Stir together with 1/4 cup white sugar in a bowl. When milk is hot, stir in 1 cup oatmeal, 1 egg, beaten well, and cranberries. Bake 30 minutes; enjoy hot with cream or milk.