Friday, March 06, 2009

"A Socialist Bill of Fare"

Dinner in the various ‘Utopian’ societies which were in vogue in the late nineteenth century were not always (or usually) utopian, it seems. Under the heading “A Socialist Bill of Fare”, the following article appeared in a number of antipodean newspapers in March 1896.

“One of the most pathetic documents ever made public is the bill of fare of “Cosme” Colony, the [Australian] settlement in Paraguay where the remainder of Mr. Lane’s followers determinedly pursue ideals … Monotony, faintly relieved by phraseology, is the conspicuous feature of the menu at what is proudly designated the Co-Operative Dining Hall. Breakfast: Maize damper, minced boiled maize with a little treacle, and generally milk, mandioca. Dinner: Maize porridge with milk, mandioca. Supper: Vegetable soup, minced boiled maize, sometimes cold maize porridge with milk or treacle, mandioca, maize damper, sometimes sweetened with treacle. There are other vegetables occasionally, and the monthly press organ of the settlement states that on Sundays the treacle, which they have to go slowly at in the name of the brotherhood during the rest of the week, is laid on somewhat thicker, while a wild revelry and abandon of mandioca is indulged in. … This lamentable diet is not part of the program of communism, but to many of the pioneers is an unforseen circumstance.… There has been a great deal of sickness …. Two families have packed up and left, and the school was closed for eight days because the teacher was otherwise employed, possibly at road-making, but more probably in the effort to make something like variety appear in the bill of fare.”

I love that idea of an ‘abandon of manioca’ (the newspaper’s italics). Is that a new collective noun ?

Mandioca (mandioc), or Cassava, is an important staple in many parts of the world, and is prepared in a number of ways. In other areas it is best known as the source of tapioca (otherwise known as ‘frog spawn’ to a lot of reluctant English children). The interesting thing about mandioca (manioc or cassava) is that it is poisonous when raw, but becomes ‘food’ when properly prepared. Of course, there are those who believe that tapioca is poisonous too.

Previous blog posts have included recipes for Tapioca with Tomatoes and tapioca in a Toasted Cheese dish, but I find that we have never had a recipe for Tapioca Pudding to date. Here are two versions, the plain no-frills version, and the posh version in a pie-shell, from Warne’s everyday cookery (1872)

Plain Tapioca Pudding.
Time, one hour.
One ounce and a half of tapioca; a pint of milk; three eggs; sugar to taste; grated lemon peel.
Soak an ounce and a half of tapioca in cold water until soft, stirring it now andthen; well beat three eggs with sugar to taste, and mix them with a pint of coldmilk ; stir the tapioca into it, and pour the whole into a buttered pie-dish. Grate thepeel of a lemon on the top, and bake it in a moderate oven.

Tapioca Pudding.
Time, one hour to bake.
One quart of new milk; three ounces of tapioca; an ounce and a half of butter; four eggs; grated lemon peel, or any other flavouring; three ounces of sugar; puff paste.
Put the tapioca into a stewpan with a quart of milk, and let it simmer by the sideof the fire for nearly twenty minutes, stirring it frequently to prevent its burning, turn it out to cool, and then stir into it the sugar, the flavouring, and the eggs well-beaten.
Bake it in a well-buttered pie-dish with a puff paste round the edge, or without, asyou may prefer. One hour will bake it in a moderate oven.

Quotation for the Day.
The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter


srhcb said...

I've never done a baked tapioca pudding. It looks great. Maybe I'll try a chocolate version?

~~louise~~ said...

Thank you so much for sharing Janet, I left a little something over at my blog for you. Here's the link.

Anonymous said...

Tapioca pudding = frog spawn? Cool, that is a new one! Here in the center of the USA we call it bug eyes. Wonder what other names tapioca pudding has? Judy

The Old Foodie said...

Steve - a chocolate version of tapioca pudding sounds infinitely better than the slippery glop I remember from my childhood.
Louise - thanks! I am honoured by your inspiration award. I'll have to get on and name my own choices.
Judy - I know that tapioca is called 'fish eyes' in some places too.

srhcb said...

conte"Fish Eyes" would make a fine desert to finish off a meal of Spaghetti-O's, aka Fish Assholes!

Anonymous said...

just for your information .. there is Bitter Cassava and "sweet" cassava. the bitter is poisonous while the sweet you can eat with out having to treat it. the bitter is treated by soaking it for a day or 2 in water and then changing the water. while the sweet can be eaten by just cooking it. Tapioca can be made from either. It is made from the starch of the cassava. i live where they make it all the time and know people who have died from eating the bitter.