Floot-a-groot. Mary Elisabeth discovered it in the book Love, Mary Elisabeth while visiting neighbors. My siblings and I got to partake of it on special occasions when we were growing up. What mystery concoction was this, passed down to my mother by her handsome, dark-haired Norwegian father and the only Norwegian dish I’d ever heard of? No mystery, just thick, creamy rice pudding.
Somehow rice pudding didn’t sound glamorous enough. Served with a dollop of butter and plenty of cinnamon and sugar, it was memorable. I often wondered though if the word floot-a-groot had been corrupted in the translation, like the game of gossip where a word whispered in someone’s ear is passed around the circle and emerges as something completely different from the original. I didn’t lose any sleep over it however. I just ate it and enjoyed every bite.
Mom’s grandparents came from the old country when they were young. They met, married, and bore eight children. They became American citizens and decided since they were Americans they would not speak Norwegian in the home. They only read the Norwegian newspaper when the children were safely tucked in bed. They traded all things Norwegian for all things American. But somehow the infamous floot-a-groot recipe snuck through the cracks.
When I met and married my own tall, handsome Viking, things were a bit different. His mom’s parents spoke Norwegian. His mom understood it. But he and his siblings? Neither. Although he can recite all the names of friends and relatives with the proper Scandahuvian accent. (Think: Onkel Hjalmer, Nels, andTrygve. For the ladies:Thora, Ragnhild, and Kjiersti.) Evidently my husband’s great-grans chose a different mindset than mine. His family passed down numerous Norwegian dishes and traditions. I was introduced to lutefisk and pickled herring. (Um… I love you but, seriously?) Also, lefse, krumkake, sandbakkels, and fattigman. (Um…more, please!) And they had the same delicious rice pudding I knew which they called…(drum roll)…rice pudding.
Imagine my delight when while doing research on Norwegian recipes I came upon several for puddings – though they called them porridges. I learned that rice pudding, identical to the one from my in-laws and no doubt the pudding Mary Elisabeth tasted at the Knutsens, is called risgrot. Ris means rice, grot means porridge. It is similar to the rich floot-a-groot I grew up on.
Rommegrot is a richer rice pudding made with sour cream and thick heavy cream instead of just milk. Romme means a heavy sour cream.
Fruktgrot is fruit porridge/pudding. The recipes I found online showed the rice pudding loaded with different kinds of fruit and even nuts. I was intrigued by the name. It came close to that of my childhood classic.
But then I came across another pudding. Flotegrot! My heart skipped a beat. Looks like floot-a-groot to me. My mom’s dad was vindicated. Flote means cream and although flotegrot is a cream pudding made with flour and no rice, I suspect this was the name Grandpa passed down. The recipe on Pinterest listed: flour, cinnamon, salt, sugar, milk, and rich, heavy cream.
So we knew it as floot-a-groot but all along were eating risgrot. I’m okay with that. They are both part of a larger group of Norwegian porridges/puddings. If there are any Norwegian pudding aficionados out there chime in with any corrections, comments, or stories of your own. I’d love to hear from you.
The actual creamy, delicious rice pudding or risgrot has become a Christmas Eve tradition at our house. Making it takes patience. An hour to thicken and lots of stirring so the bottom doesn’t scorch. But it is so worth the effort. My family would revolt if we skipped it.
Below is the recipe handed down by my husband’s parents and very similar to the one I grew up with. Hint: I am convinced it tastes better if you blurt out “Uffda” at least twice while it is gently bubbling away.
Rice Pudding (Risgrot)
- ½ cup rice
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup water salted
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 cup raisins
- ½ stick butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
Pour rice slowly into rapidly boiling salted water in a large pot. Do not stir. Cover and cook seven minutes with burner on low until all water is absorbed and rice is slightly underdone.
Add milk and butter, mix and slowly bring to a boil.
Cover and cook over low heat for one hour, stirring frequently.
Meanwhile, wash raisins, heat, and let sit in water to plump. (Not everyone in our house likes raisins in the pudding so we leave them in a separate bowl after they’ve plumped.)
Beat eggs and add sugar, raisins, and vanilla. Pour mixture into rice, pouring slowly till rice thickens. (I always add several spoonfuls of the hot rice mixture, one at a time, into the egg mixture first, whisking after each spoonful, to warm it up before mixing it into the large pot of thickened rice. That way I don’t end up with scrambled eggs.)
Serve hot, warm, or cold with butter and cinnamon-sugar on top.
Photographs by Merritt Acheson