What Brei is
Brei is a German dish and is pronounced “Bry”. It rhymes with “dry” or “cry”. Since the I is the last letter of the two vowels, the I is the long sound and the e is silent.
My older siblings have fond memories of this dish from their childhood. My oldest brother Daniel shared his memories of his mother making this dish in the 1930s. He described it as a homemade pudding made with milk and sugar, and thickened with cornstarch. “We’d put brown sugar over it and eat it that way.” Daniel recalled a conversation with his mother as the sun was setting and the clouds were low and he was eating brei. He remembered the “secure, comfortable feeling I had about that occasion”1 in the kitchen.
Recently a friend told me that this homemade Brei was her favorite food as a child. She often carried it in her lunchbox to school where her friends did not know what it was.
For folks in my home community, it makes sense that it was a staple, and thus a comfort food for families. During the depression, most folks in my community had milk because of their herd of cows. Plenty of milk to fix Brei and only a handful of other ingredients were necessary! When tummies were empty, this dish was a simple fix before bedtime or as a snack.
Some folks consider Brei to be a type of baby or pureed food. Still others consider it a porridge or a custard. While Brei favors a pudding, it’s not quite as thick as pudding, probably because there are no eggs in Brei. No matter what you call it, Brei2 is a down-home comfort food.
Brei [homemade pudding]
- 4 cups milk
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Maple Sugar or brown sugar and milk for on top
- Heat 3 1/2 cups milk to almost boiling.
- While the milk is heating, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt.
- Mix with 1/2 cup milk.
- Add cornstarch mixture to hot milk.
- Stir constantly as it thickens and just comes to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add vanilla.
- Serve warm or cold with maple sugar and milk.
1 Family Jaunt of Memories by the Floyd J. Miller family, Lulu Online Printing, June, 2009. p. 56.
2 Ibid. p. 445