cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Thoughts on Tapioca

I like it.
Let us begin by saying that it is time for something sunny. Negative temperatures and omnipresent grayness are catalysts for the tumbling into that rotten state of dejection and despair. Not the instigator, the fuse or spark that gets the ball rolling; but the agitator--the shoulder-rubber in a boxing ring. Want him gone? You're the one wearing the gloves. Say the word, the fun little bubbly word of the bubbly textured cream and perhaps you feel better already. Tapioca. Why would i make tapioca? Because i like it. Because it is a tabula rasa to do with what you please. Because it is gluten free. Because it tastes of ambrosia. Because you can mix alcohol with it and dedicate it to a little sister's 21st birthday. Because it's simply good. Because it's tapioca. on y va.

What has been done to tapioca throughout the years; it's a flour, a pudding, a thickener, a starch. Tapioca flour makes a cake much more appetizing than potato flour, and it's lighter and more mailable to taste than a clunky quinoa. What exactly is tapioca? Well it is a flavorless, colorless, and odorless root starch from cassava. Cassava eh...cassava is also known as manioc, yuca, and mandioca. Tapioca is a gem of many faces. The root is primarily indigenous to southern Brazil, Thailand, and parts of Africa, but consumed all over the world. Brazil eh? Would you like a story? I thought so.

Flash back: restaurant in Paris seated with D and F two classmates qui vienent do brasil ask--you want to sprinkle that with manioc? (small white flakes in a bowl) with what? with manioc. maniac? maniac? oh like maniac en anglais, ca veut dire maniaque! hahaha. maniac. Proceed for the remainder of the meal chittering and referring to me as the maniac, all this in portuguese of course. Me, i sit and smile. Two hours later: a quick consultation of wikipedia and i am ahhhhhh, it's tapioca; tapioca is all. Tapioca flour sprinkled on black beans and rice? Fine by me, gluten free. But hark; it appears that tapioca can be used for far more than a mere 20 minute pudding of gelatinous pearlage--and indeed it can. Soups, stews, potato substitute as root, wheat substitute as flour, cereals, deep fried, Pão de Queijo, and of course, tapioca pudding.

O the things you can think; yes a book by Dr. Seuss, but also a descriptor of our pustulous pudding. What shall be done with him? The first thought came from dedication to my little sisters birthday this 22nd of January--the big 2-1. Also gluten free, my sister R would benefit greatly from a sup of tapioca. But tapioca de quoi? Well, 21, alcohol. Rum. Rum raisin. Of course; the raisin married the pearl many a year ago. But alas, i do not have rum. What is there...limoncello, pomegranate vodka, and cachaça. Limoncello; been there done that. Vodka tapioca? mmm delicious. Cachaça? Well, close to rum. But oh no--cachaça and tapioca? I didn't mean to! These things just happen. But the result, was brilliant. And the gummy bears? Not particularly appetizing, i agree. Though a glitzy photo prop to supplement the vibrant lemons and limes in a citric crusade against the deadness of winter i will verily testify to. Perhaps though there will be some guests tonight that will not agree to the taste of cachaça; halve the batch for a vanilla-almond variant. Ah yes guests of course--for these are not in the end for dear sister R who passes her birthday festivities frivolously away in sunny LA; but who can blame. Would it be--i'd be anywhere but here. Save Siberia. I hear it's a bit chilly off yonder in eastern snow-deserts. Either way, happy birthday sister. I scored some pudding off of your birth.

Tapioca may seem awfully simple, no recipe other than the goods at hand and an imagination. Though it is good enough for Salty, we ask you to bear patiently by us; we have now begun the writing of our thesis, and perhaps may be slightly distracted. But never distracted enough to neglect our dearest home here. Though there might be increased mention of liquors, and liqueurs...Try some tapioca. While its bubbly texture may not be for everyone, it is worth your effort to try. But who couldn't like tapioca? I ask--and shocked I was upon discovering my three housemates in their loathing of the dessert--well we can't all be perfect now can we. More for me.

à bientôt


Elra said...

The humble tapioca look most delicious in your hand. Cheers,

Tartelette said...

I loved the phrase "It's tapioca, on y va!". Reminds me of an old French movie "C'est lundi, c'est ravioli"...ok. no connection but it was cute :)
We love tapioca pudding over here too! Gorgeous!

Christy said...

Oh, so this post is totally for me. I hail from the tropics, which means that cassava is used almost like the equivalent of rice there---or potatoes in the western world. Apparently, tapioca is really good for you too---i remember my history teacher saying that that's what the Japanese soldiers used to make people eat when there's a shortage of rice in the region; but only so that they have the energy to do hard labour for them. But anyway, I also know that tapioca contains trace amounts of cyanide---which, if consumed in ridiculously large quantities, may cause death. But then, so are bitter almonds.

Reading about a tapioca encounter in Paris, though, is a bit disconcerting; I thought that Paris would be the last place in the world where you'd find tapioca, but then I've been wrong before. In this instance, you have transformed the humble ingredient into something that looks civilised enough to eat for breakfast (or dinner--taking into account the alcohol content).

Wish your sis a fabulous 21st for me, and good luck om your thesis!

Manuela © said...

Tapioca, cachaça, pão de queijo? Temos brasileira! :P

Did you win the trip to Azores? You better do it ;)

Núria said...

A beautiful, beautiful post Mallory! It's always such a pleasure to read and watch your pictures!
My good wishes to your sister :D :D. Ain't she lucky to be in LA?

My mom used to give us Tapioca when we were kids... never had it again, maybe it's high time to try back ;D

Aran said...

we are also tapioca pudding lovers in this house, all puddings actually. your writing is most brilliant mallory.

Arlette said...

I never used tapioca before,
We have many things in common, I worked all my life in hospitality and I love baking and cooking and experiencing different cuisine.
I love your pictures...

R khooks said...

I love tapioca. Must be my malay side coming out. They use it a lot in desserts over there unlike the English where it still has a horrible memories from school dinners. I also have a total bubble tea addiction. Those big tapioca pearls in the tea is just delish!

Moira said...

Olá Mallory,
I never tasted tapioca. It looks so yummm that I'm tented to try.
I couldn't comment your last post, something is wrong :( but I love the white dots.
Um beijo e até breve

Sierra said...

I miss my gummy bears....and the "yummy" tapioca...I still have yet to try it.

Carolina deWitte said...

Pustulous pudding? LOL. No wonder so few people like it. I don't think your words persuaded too many people to try it, maybe if you'd left that phrase out...? Do you ever give recipes for any of your foods?

Justine said...

Your thoughts are my thoughts too. Tapicoa is so yummy and comforting. love you site, the photographs are great!