The conversation that Sunday afternoon in March between Earl Lovelace and Elizabeth Nunez at the Harlem Arts Salon was sizzling, as they practically agreed on nothing which heightened the afternoon with dazzling energy. Nunez, a critically acclaimed novelist herself, as well as a Trini-ex-pat, peppered our guest with commentary befitting her academic station as professor of English at Hunter College. He counter-punched with lyrical passages from his newest novel, IS JUST A MOVIE. It was rich.

(l-r) Quincy, Margaret, Earl Lovelace, Mildred Howard, Elizabeth Nunez

(l-r) Quincy, Margaret, Earl Lovelace, Mildred Howard, Elizabeth Nunez

You don’t have to take my word for it, ask Anthony Arnove, our co-sponsor at Haymarket Books and publisher of the book. Anthony was there and brought along another eyewitness, Vanity Fair columnist Anderson Tepper, who wrote a delicious review in the Paris Review. Or just watch the video!

The food was slammin’ too. Mildred Howard designed and prepared a sumptuous menu with a sassy Mexican flavor and the freshest of fresh ingredients (even the garlic!) imported from California . We served a five-orange citrus salad with jalapeno-stuffed olives, handmade beef, chicken, cheese corn, vegetarian tamales, black beans over brown rice, red cabbage slaw with jicama, a tomato, cilantro piccadillo. To top it off, she made the most divine bread pudding out of leftover baguettes! Tomcat Bakery  makes the best baguettes, if you ask me.

Mildred Howard’s Bread Pudding with coconut

2-3 day old baguettees

1½ cups of shredded coconut

3-4 + cups of milk (can also substitute one of the cups of milk with cream and milk or buttermilk)

4-5 eggs whipped

2 cups of packed brown sugar

1½ cups of butter

2 Tbsp vanilla flavoring

3-4 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

Juice from 3 lemons

1 shot cognac, whiskey or dark rum(optional)

Crumble baguettes and cover with one half of the milk.  If the bread is extremely hard, toss in water to soften the bread. Do not let the bread sit in the water. Pour off the water and cover with milk. Cover bowl with plastic wrap to maintain moisture. From time to time, break up bread with a fork or spoon making sure there are no huge pieces of bread. The bread should have a very soggy feel. Add more milk if necessary.

In a separate bowl whip eggs and remainder of milk, 1-2 cups. Melt 1 cube of butter and add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut to milk and eggs. Stir and mix all of the ingredients with the soaked bread. Place in a buttered baking dish. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at about 350° for 30-40 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and pour the following mixture over the bread pudding.

In a separate pot add ½ cup of butter, ½ to ¾ cups of sugar and lemon juice in a pan; cook all ingredients until melted and slightly syrupy. (You can also add a little cognac, whisky, or dark rum). Pour over top of the bread pudding and leave in oven for an extra couple of minutes. Let set for about ten minutes before serving.

Note: I vary bread pudding depending on the kind of bread that I have left over. Sometimes I use biscuits, croissants, pound cake, sandwich bread or a combination. You can add pecans, currants, yellow raisins, or whatever you taste maybe. I’ve also replaced part of the milk with coconut milk in addition to the coconut. The important trick is that you want the bread pudding not to be too heavy. Whipping the eggs helps to prevent that from happening.

As the saying goes, “A good time was had by all!”