This week’s exciting Positive Vibes installment is all about feeding your food nostalgia. Did you know that eating certain foods can actually elicit feelings of nostalgia in the brain? We call it food nostalgia. It is the feeling evoked when you eat certain foods and it sends you on a magical trip down memory lane.

Similar to taking in the aromatic scent of a perfume, tasting particular foods can conjure the most vivid of fond memories. With that in mind, its no wonder that chefs have been taking to Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media platforms more and more to share their own “Positive Vibes” and spark some good feeling “food nostalgia” in all of us.

What causes food nostalgia?
Memories include all five senses and when they are sparked you are reminded of those moments in the past. Similar to smelling a perfume, when you catch a whiff of foods associated with your childhood or other memorable moments, it takes you back in time. Think of Sunday dinners with the family, Thanksgiving meal aromas, and of course, the desserts that grandma used to make when you were a child. These are the memories of a lifetime that bring on warm-fuzzy feelings that people love to experience.

Ultimate Food Nostalgia –Rice Pudding
Interestingly one of the foods that seems to be presented time and time again by chefs around the world for its reminiscence qualities is the comfort food dessert “rice pudding” – just like grandma’s!

Today, nearly every culture around the world has its own version: baked or boiled, sweet or spicy, creamy or compact. In Latin American arroz con leche is often made with condensed milk and spices; in Indonesia bubur ketan hitan is made from black rice; in Italy this tasty custard treat is called budino di riso; and in France riz au lait is firmly ensconced in food nostalgia topping the comfort food category of “recettes de grand-mère” or “grandmother’s recipes.”

How to Feed Your Food Nostalgia
One acclaimed chef in France – Chef Stéphane Jégo, visionary of Chez L’Ami Jean – created a recipe of this nostalgic dessert so special that it has lived on his menu for decades as a fan favorite. To further boost your own Positive Vibes, here is the rice pudding from chef Stéphane Jego of the Paris restaurant L’Ami Jean. The recipe has appeared in various media outlets including New York Times and BBC News and is celebrated online on countless sites.

According to the restaurant’s website, the chef says that he recreated the childhood memory of the rice pudding his “mum” used to make. L’Ami Jean serves this nostalgic rice pudding with a modern twist – featuring sides of salted butter caramel, whipped cream, and roasted caramelized pecan nuts that can be stirred in as desired.

Chez L’Ami Jean – Riz Au Lait Recipe

For the Salted Butter Carmel:
1 14-ounce can Nestlé Carnation sweetened condensed milk
Sea salt

For the Whipped Cream:
½ vanilla bean
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
3 large egg yolks

For the brittle:
Butter for greasing pan
2/3 cup hazelnuts or pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
1 dried apricot, finely chopped
2/3 cup sugar

For the Rice Pudding:
½ vanilla bean
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/3 cup arborio or short-grain rice
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 2/3 cups heavy cream

1. Make the Carmel: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour the condensed milk into a glass pie pan or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few grains of sea salt and cover tightly with foil. Set in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to the pan so that the water rises halfway up the sides of the pie pan. Bake until the milk turns caramel-brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, checking the water level several times and adding water as needed. Cool in the roasting pan. If the caramel is lumpy, whisk or strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Keep refrigerated. To serve, warm gently in a hot-water bath.

2. Make the Whipped Cream: Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and pod in a small pot. Add the cream, milk and 3 tablespoons sugar and heat until just before it reaches a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar until fluffy. Whisk just enough of the scalded cream mixture into the eggs to warm them, then pour into the cream mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion over low heat until it coats the back of the spoon and the bubbles along the edge disappear. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over an ice bath. Cool completely, then refrigerate.

3. Make the Brittle: Butter a sheet pan. In a small bowl, mix the hazelnuts, apricot and a dash of salt. In a medium pot set over high heat, cook the sugar without stirring. As it starts to turn deep caramel, swirl the pan to distribute the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and fold in the hazelnuts and apricot. Pour onto the sheet pan and let cool. Chop into small pieces.

4. Prepare the Rice Pudding: Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in the rice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of oatmeal, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Cool to room temperature, then chill.

5. Transfer the chilled rice to a large bowl. Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the rice, little by little, to desired thickness. It should be light and creamy.

6. Serve the caramel, the whipped cream, and the brittle in separate bowls alongside the rice pudding, to be stirred in as desired.

How about beckoning your very own “food nostalgia” in France on our 9-day Provence & The French Riviera vacation? Come savor the flavors of France every step of the way on this trip that takes you to delve into Provence, a region in southeastern France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, and on to the south to discover the French Riviera. Get ready to create the memories of a lifetime!