Friday, January 16, 2009

These Are the Days for Comfort Food

Just what is comfort food, anyway? Wikipedia defines it as "...typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. Many people turn to comfort food for familiarity, emotional security, or as a special reward. The reasons a dish becomes a comfort food are diverse but often include pleasant associations of childhood."

One of the things on my list of comfort foods is tapioca pudding. I'm not talking about the Minute Tapioca, but the large pearl kind. My great-grandma used to make it and bring it for Christmas at my mom's house and for other family gatherings. Hers was unique, because she went heavy on the yellow food coloring. I don't put any coloring in mine.

Winter can be a depressing time when you live in the Great White North. With wind chills at -35°F to -40°F, who couldn't use a little comforting? I have my microfiber fuzzy jammies, a soft blankie, and a kitty or two to snuggle up with, but that's made all the better by tapioca pudding.

I've made it twice in the last week, using this recipe:

Large Pearl Tapioca Pudding

1 cup large pearl tapioca

2 cups water

5 cups milk

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¾ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1¼ teaspoons vanilla

Soak tapioca for 12 hours in water.
Over medium heat, heat tapioca, milk and salt to boiling, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, beat eggs with sugar. Gradually stir in a small amount of hot tapioca mixture. Slowly pour egg mixture back into tapioca mixture, stirring rapidly to prevent lumping. Cook for about 5 minutes more until mixture thickens. (Do not boil.) Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla.

Makes 8 servings.

This is a Swedish recipe from
Bishop Hill Heritage Cookbook and was published about 30 years ago in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

Tapioca is made from the processed root of the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta). It's an odorless, colorless, tasteless starch and is used not only for pearl tapioca, but as a thickening agent.

Tapioca is gluten-free and nearly protein-free and is opaque until it's cooked, when it becomes translucent. The plant is native to South America, but is now cultivated throughout the world.

What is your comfort food?


Anonymous said...

I do love the taste of tapioca, but cannot stand the texture of it. This stems from when I was a little girl -- every time I'd been sick, and was introducing food again, my Mom would always make tapioca. Whether it's the little "pearls" that create the texture, or the memory associated with it, I'm not sure what turns me off it now. :)

My comfort foods on days like this (it's -15F here in my town right now) are chowders, stews, or thick soups with biscuits or cornmeal muffins. Or a big dish of cheesy lasagna with garlic bread will suffice, too. :)

Kylee Baumle said...

Nancy ~ The texture is what I love the most! Just a bit chewy. Now I can't stand grisly meat, so go figure!

Oh soup, definitely, especially with these frigidly cold days. I made pasta e fagioli a couple of nights ago and we're still enjoying it!

Stay warm, my friend!

Amanda said...

I think we used to call tapioca 'frogspawn' as children. But don't let that put you off...

Stews, soups, steamed puddings all make winter worthwhile for me!

Kylee Baumle said...

Amanda ~ LOL. We used to call it "fish eyes." I can see how the smaller pearl tapioca looks like roe.

Steamed pudding... Not sure what that is, exactly, but I love the tapioca pudding best right after I've made it - nice and warm!

Chris said...

Fuzzy jammies, blankie, kitty and warm tapioca. It doesn't get any better than that on a cold night! I haven't made it in years but your post was a great reminder of how much I used to enjoy tapioca. I'd run out to the store for some if it wasn't so cold. I'll have to settle for warm vanilla pudding.

Connie said...

My Mom used to make that on occasion when we were growing up, haven't had it for many, many years now. My comfort food is very dark chocolate, but since it give me arthritis like pain in my wrists, I am sworn off it. I guess that leaves me comfort-less. :-)

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I don't think I've ever had homemade tapioca pudding.

My problem is that all food comforts me. I'm a stress eater. Especially anything chocolate!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

During these cold days I like to have soup. We have had a variety of soup lately. Creamy Potato, Chili, Potato & Carrot, Sweet Potato...hmmm I almost see a theme there. I guess I could say potatoes are a comfort food. I eat them in most any form.

Unknown said...

Ugh. Kylee, my friend, you know I love you, but here's where we'll have to disagree. There are very, very few things I will not eat, but this is one of them. Fish eggs and birds eyes is what it reminds me of. I can't stomach it, and also can't handle bread pudding or rice pudding. Must be a consistency thing.

A long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away...) I boarded with an elderly lady who would make canned green-pea soup for supper and tapioca. And then wonder why I had 'already eaten at work, thanks!' and then have to go out for a a sandwich shop!

Anonymous said...

Chicken and dumplings and we had some today when my daughter came over. Yum!

Kylee Baumle said...

Chris ~ It got just a tad bit better than that tonight, because we had soup before we ate our tapioca! :-)

Connie ~ Oh, that's too bad about the chocolate. :-( There are so many things that could be comfort food, I'm sure there's one you aren't thinking of! How about homemade macaroni and cheese? I think I'll make that tomorrow!

Robin ~ You MUST try it, Robin! I'm not a stress eater. When I'm under a great deal of stress, I can't eat. I don't have a very good appetite to begin with though, and I have to be in the mood for chocolate. :-O

Lisa ~ Mmmm...soup. We had soup tonight. I love potatoes in just about every form, too!

jodi ~ That's okay that you don't like tapioca, Jodi. That means there's that much more for me! ;-) I don't like bread pudding at all, either, and rice pudding is just okay. So when you and I go out to eat, we'll have cake, okay?
Too funny about the lady!

MNGarden ~ Chicken and dumplings! It's been awhile since we've had those! I'll have to remedy that. Thanks for the reminder!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Good Lord, I LOVE tapioca pudding. Even the local supermarket's store brand is good. Not being much of a cook, it never dawned on me that one could make it from scratch--duh! Thanks for the recipe; I may just try it. I wish I'd read this before going to Whole Food on Thursday as they're likely to have tapioca in their bulk food section.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I forgot to add, my comfort foods are mashed potatoes, spaghetti in a butter-garlic-chive sauce, German potato pancakes made only be my mom (no one else gets it quite the way I like), and zwieback with sliced bananas and milk (and they can only be Brandt Zwieback!) In fact, I'm going to have some now. :)

Wayne Stratz said...

Tapioca pudding is good stuff. comfort food--- hmmm. diner food is all good comfort. dark chocolate also comes to mind.

Kit Aerie-el said...

I love tapioca. And that is so funny--we called it 'fish eyes' too! I guess the combination of taste, texture, and grossness factor of 'fish eyes' was particularly appealing as a youngster. Now the taste and chewiness, and absolutely positively comfort-food-appeal of tapioca is what makes it so yummy. Thanks for sharing your recipe and the info about where it comes from. I had always wondered...

Barbara said...

I love tapioca pudding too, this we had in our childhood made by a friend of my mother. But actually it is quite difficult to get tapioca here (people don't seem to like it much!). My personal comfort food is also a sort of pudding, made of semolina, sugar and cinnamon....pure memories of a happy childhood!

Kylee Baumle said...

Monica ~

Wayne ~ I like milk chocolate, and while dark chocolate will do in a pinch, it's not my favorite.

Aerie-el ~ Sounds like we like the same things about tapioca!

Barbara ~ The large pearl tapioca can be a bit difficult to find here, too. Only one out of the four grocery stores in Van Wert has it.

Here, the semolina I think you are talking about is a breakfast cereal that you cook, called Cream of Wheat. It has a pudding consistency and I like it with butter and white sugar. My husband eats it with milk and raisins. I love Cream of Wheat! (And not the prepackaged instant kind, which tastes terrible, I think.) Definitely a comfort food for me, too!

Shady Gardener said...

I love tapioca. It was definitely a favorite as I was growing up - especially the large pearl. I enjoy making it now! :-)

varptr said...

This recipe works really well with a crock pot or induction cooktop where the temp can be controlled. The pot can also be used to speed hydration.

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