Although we have rice, bread, and tapioca puddings, these do not fit into the usual categories and have a much different history than the others so I thought I'd look at them separately. I've found tapioca and rice puddings in cultures that were not American or European.
I grew up with tapioca pudding that my mother made occasionally. Once I got old enough, I took over making it and discovered if you cooked it a bit longer till it started to thicken it made a better pudding. A few years ago, I found a tapioca recipe that used coconut milk and no eggs. I actually preferred it to the way my mother taught me.
Tapioca is made from the roots of the cassava plant. The roots are mostly starch with little protein and no gluten and are made into sticks or pearls. Tapioca came to America around 1894 when a sailor brought it with him from Brazil. He stayed at the house of Boston resident Susan Stavers as a boarder and due to being sick, she created a sweet pudding from the cassava he'd brought with him. She tried different methods and finally settled on grinding the root up in a coffee grinder. Others learned of it and a newspaper owner bought the rights to the process to found Minute Tapioca Company, the same company who markets it even today. The homemade variety is so much better than the stuff you buy in the supermarket.
In India they boil up tapioca with sweetened milk to form a pudding while in Thailand they cook the tapioca up with syrup, coconut milk, black beans, or corn kernels into a dessert. In Brazil they mix coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, regular full fat milk, with eggs and dried coconut while in parts of Asia they mix the tapioca with coconut milk, eggs, and vanilla with fruits such as mango or lime added. Tapioca pudding can be made without eggs if you like.
Rice Pudding has been around for quite a while and I never had it at home. I don't think my mother knew what it was. In general rice pudding is made up of rice, milk, sugar, and spices and has been around for a long time. Variations of rice pudding can be found in ancient India, ancient China, the Byzantine Empire. Originally, rice pudding was for the rich and resembled a risotto. The first real rice pudding showed up in Europe in the 1300's but it was not sweet. The savory dish had rice, almond milk, broth, and saffron. The sweet version of the dish, flavored with sugar and honey, arrived in the 15th century and rice itself was considered only for the rich because rice had to be imported via caravans and cost a pretty penny. Furthermore, most of the recipes in the 16th and 17th centuries included suet, spices, and the pudding was stuffed in sausage casings before being roasted or fried.
As the cost of rice decreased, it was used by everyone and by the 18th century, rice pudding could be found in more households as an everyday dish. Recipes for rice pudding appeared in cookbooks so everyone could make it. Eventually, it gained the reputation as a cheap dish one could find in school cafeterias and hospitals. thus gaining the reputation of being a food for those with digestive issues. In the late 50's and early 60's many people still cooked rice pudding using broth but most people now use milk. If you look around the world, you'll find a version of rice pudding in most countries.
It appears bread puddings have been around since the 11th an 12th centuries and began as a way to use stale leftover bread so it wouldn't go to waste. By the 13th century, bread pudding was often referred to as poor man's pudding in England. In the early days, they prepared bread pudding by soaking the dry bread, squeezing it out, and adding spices to the mix. Now it's made with a custardy mix poured over the stale bread either plain or with other things added and it is served for dessert. Furthermore, they may be savory or sweet and can be found all over the world in various cultures.
These puddings are a bit different that most of the other types. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.