” What is the matter with Mary Jane?


Risotto rice being turned in oil with shallots

..and it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!” I knew from an early age what was the matter with Mary Jane. She, very wisely, fucking hated rice pudding from the first moment that her misguided English mother served her a particularly vile version of this shining example of what is laughingly known as “English nursery food”. Nursery food is the San Andreas fault in the privileged classes of English society. It might well account for the “asses” in “classes”. Overcooked, barely seasoned food was the staple diet of the poor, because that is all they had, and it was also the chosen diet of the rich, because that is what they liked. Poor children were bullied and beaten as a matter of survival in the rough environment into which they had unwillingly been thrust, whereas the wealthy had to pay a great deal of money to recreate a similar scenario for their offspring in vastly expensive private institutions where buggery, bullying and privilege walked hand in hand: it’s not a far cry for the imagination to work out a possible origin for the name of the Bullingdon. The battle of Waterloo may well have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but the experiences in the showers afterwards probably led quite a few alumni to the public conveniences of Waterloo Station to relive those stimulating moments.

the oil coated rice is slowly cooked in hot stock and white wine

the oil coated rice is slowly cooked in hot stock and white wine

Back to rice. We were not immediate bedfellows, unlike those victors of Waterloo. Foil containers littered with half eaten takeaways and dead cigarette ends are amongst  my clearest youthful memories of rice. Rice was a sustainer, a substance to pack out the highly coloured MSG flavoured gloop that no indigenous Chinese would have recognised as part of his national cuisine. It took me a long time to recognise the glamour in rice and I can clearly remember when I found it and where. It was, of course, in Italy. I was offered a dish of Risi e Bisi at which I couldn’t turn my nose up because it was offered by friends. Risi e Bisi needs to be soupy, a fact of which I, the ingénue,  was unaware. The visual attributes of sloppy, soupy rice and peas do not immediately make the heart strings go “zing”, but the first mouthful did the business. I realised that I had badly misjudged rice.  It’s taken a while, but rice and I are good now. This is a simple risotto of prawn, lemon, peas and white wine.



About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2013, Bad Habits, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Italian food, Olive oil, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to ” What is the matter with Mary Jane?

  1. Mad Dog says:

    That’s not the Mary Jane I remember from my youth.
    I bet those Old Etonians were so fucked up that the revulsion and anger turned them into monsters on the battle field…
    Great looking risotto 😉

  2. Poor things – they never tasted rice pudding with coconut milk, cinnamon and cardamom, that’s the trouble with the English of all classes!

    This, on the other hand sounds divine – but do we have to be careful about quantities/ratios, or just wing it?

  3. While I don’t enjoy cooking, I love to make risotto. We don’t eat it much anymore, but there’s something relaxing about the stirring for me.

  4. Have you ever tried the sweet version of rice pudding? Unbelievably good. So good, I never make it because I can’t trust myself to leave any. This version looks fantastic.

    For a brief second, I thought the wood in the first photo was a counter and that you had somehow made rice and onions (?) curl around it!

    • That would be a brilliant trick – although the experimentation would leave a bit of a mess.The Wanderlust Gene mentioned a wonderful rice pudding with coconut milk, cinnamon and cardamom that sounds delicious.

  5. God I loathe rice pudding with a passion. Always have, always will. I think it dates back to having been made to eat the crust (I shudder just typing the word) at school and promptly throwing it all back up again 🙂 I love risotto though – I tend to make it with whole basmati rice though, having been so traumatised by the white stuff.

  6. ChgoJohn says:

    I don’t know nothin’ about Mary Jane and rice pudding but I do know a fantastic risotto when I see one. This is a great dish, Roger, beautifully photographed.

  7. Eha says:

    The first paras had me laughing to tears, so it took awhile to get to present day rice 🙂 ! My love affair with the stuff very much began in SE Asia and it’s now on menu 4-5 days a week! Risottos came later . . . yours does appeal . . . personally find the stirring quite cathartic . . . 😀 !

  8. Michelle says:

    I actually do like rice pudding for dessert. Perhaps I’m British, of a certain class? But nobody could say no to this risotto.

  9. cendriani says:

    I’m so happy to find your blog !

  10. For such a sad beginning, rice has worked its way into our lives quite successfully.
    Risotto is so good that I frequently forget that is it rice. But rice pudding has always meant a wonderful hearty dessert, although I can’t understand how anyone could eat a large filling bowl of rice after eating a large filling meal.

  11. Wow. It is amazing what you can extrapolate from rice pudding about English society and its origins, Roger. But this recipe is for a born-again rice lover. I sall definitely be trying it. Thanks!

  12. Yes, I first thought of the same Mary Jane that Mad Dog refers to! I’ve always loved rice, perhaps because I wasn’t brought up on English nursery food. The problem for me with rice pudding is that I don’t like milk. Your risotto looks wonderful – I love the focus on the prawn in your shot. But who could not like rice in all its forms: Basmati, risotto, Camargue long-grain, Valencian paella rice……?

  13. Well, rice and I are BFF since my childhood. So I won’t need too much convincing to try your risotto. It looks delicious! 🙂

  14. lulu says:

    What is it about rice pudding! I don’t care what you out in it, it never gets better. Risotto, now that’s another story. It’s hard to screw that up.
    Love what you do with a camera.

  15. Tandy says:

    I love risotto and I’ve never ever tried rice pudding 🙂

  16. I’m amazed at all the text you got out of the humble rice pudding….. Rice pudding is fabulous stuff, but homemade – not that Ambrosia tinned yuck. The risotto looks lush (won’t say “divine… I’m a rice puddin’ fan).

    • We have two schools of thought at work here. My school works on memories of horrid rice pudding. I’m going to have to make some myself, to see if all you rice pudding fans have realised something that I hadn’t:)

  17. Karen says:

    I think I shall have this over the weekend.

  18. My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different page and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to exploring your web page yet again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.