Rice, in its many forms, may feed half the world's population, but in our New England household, where boiled potatoes accompanied every meal but breakfast, rice was definitely a foreign element. Our grade school had a hotlunch program where rice appeared too often as a gluey white mound tasting of nothing so much as rainwater and library paste. I didn't like rice in that form, and my mother's occasional excursions into rice cookery via Minute Rice were rescued for my only by enormous amounts of butter and pepper. My brothers drowned theirs in soy sauce (also exotic).

But ah! Rice was redeemed by its presence in rice puddings, where the innocent starch took on new luster from its creamy vanilla-scented background. School lunch presented squares of a solid, baked rice pudding with cinnamon and raisins. At a very tender age I, myself, perpetrated a rice custard, using Minute Rice and following a recipe, but not realizing I was meant to cook the rice first. I was left wondering if it was meant to crunch. mOur family's best-loved rice puddings, though, were gleaned from my grandmother's repertoire. GERMAN RICE PUDDING (6 servings) 1/2 cup uncooked medium-grain rice 1 cup boiling water 3 cups hot milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 cup sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar Butter Whipped cream,optional

Cook rice, covered in boiling water until all liquid is absorbed. Heat milk in double boiler. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Combine thoroughly salt, butter, sugar and egg. Stir some of hot milk mixture into egg mixture, then return all to double boiler and continue cooking, stirring, until the pudding thickens. Pour into serving dish and sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Dot with bits of butter and let stand in a warm place. Serve slightly warm, with whipped cream if you like. PINNEAPPLE RICE (6 servings) 1 cup uncooked medium-grain rice 2 cups water 1 tablespoon butter 1 teaspoon salt 15-1/4-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained 1 cup whipping cream Sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring rice, water, butter and salt to boil in a heavy saucepan. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the pineapple. Allow to cool, then chill in refrigerator. Two hours or so before serving, whip the cream until thick, sweeten to taste and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Fold into the chilled rice. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Serve well-chilled.