Wednesday 28 Sep 2016

Hall of Fame
David Simmonds

Nothing is official, but it appears that Wellington is heading the shortlist of sites for the new home for the Hall of Fame, The Rice Pudding Hall of Fame.

Well, technically speaking, the Hall doesn't really exist as a public place, now. A joint project of the Canadian Dairy Farmers, Canadian Egg Marketing Agency, Canadian Sugar Association and the Rice Growers League of Canada, it has sat on the drawing board for many years.

"The timing just hasn't been right," says Larry Curdle, a cinnamon importer from Cold Lake, Alberta, whose brainchild the Hall of Fame has been. "There have always been other priorities for donors, as well as turf wars with the tapioca and custard people; and we had some internal dissension when the glue industry wanted in on the action. Besides, let's face it, rice pudding does not score high in the glamour category; still, our time has come."

Curdle sits in a small cubicle office tucked at the back of his import warehouse, his desk overflowing with rice pudding recipes, tips from field agents, letters from eating establishments begging for sampling of their wares and his own enthusiasm.

We asked Curdle three obvious questions. Why rice pudding, why now and why Wellington?

He leaps in with both feet to reply to all three questions at once. It should happen, he tells us because rice pudding is universal and traditional It reminds us of a time when things were simpler, when diners did not insist on eating pecan-crusted passion fruit cake baked with wild rice lime jelly topped with gorgonzola creme freche anglais.

Not that long ago, he says, everyone shunned rice pudding. "It used to be that you could go into a diner and see it in a glass cabinet sitting with dishes of green Jell-O cubes. Nobody actually ordered it." With the resurgence in comfort foods and home style cooking in chic restaurants, rice pudding, along with poutine, is enjoying a run of popularity.

"It's a bit like Conrad Black," says Curdle. "As much as you may dislike it, you begin to admire rice pudding's stoicism through a long bout of ignominy."

As for Wellington, Curdle said, "we wanted to go to a place that reflected the nature of our product. It's quiet, unassuming and traditional, yet respectful of quality without needing flash. In addition, he noted, the County had vast experience in running festivals and events. "We could have pudding tastings," he added, "and we could match up with local wineries: They've got grapes and we've got raisins, so we're just one degree of separation apart.

"Or we could go to the schools to reward the creation of rice pudding themed songs, art and essays We could have the local poets circle celebrate rice pudding - you know, 'to hold the world in a bowl of rice pudding is to hold eternity in the palm of your hand'; not that sort of drivel, though, something better quality."

"We're hoping to be within spitting distance of the new Duke-dome," he added, declining to speculate as to sites he might have in mind but acknowledging there were logical sales and marketing tie-ins.

>"I might be letting too much out of the bag," admitted Curdle ruefully. "But right now, we're in the quiet phase of our campaign. There are still major opportunities to get in at the ground floor. If you want the Hall named after you, it's only $50,000. That's a lot of rice pudding, but rice pudding is forever, and you will be too."

Curdle admits to a certain family pride in the campaign. "My grandfather was the first to spot the advantages of aerosol-canned whipped cream on top of rice pudding. It doubled our cinnamon sales in one year, and probably saved rice pudding's bacon."

No doubt saved rice pudding from a streak of rasher decisions.

*Note that the author is the Eastern Canada Field Representative for the Rice Pudding Hall of Fame.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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