Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Felix Wages the Tapioca Wars

On Saturday I walked into our kitchen and saw that it had been converted in a very short time into a tapioca test kitchen. The reason for this was Felix had made some tapioca the old fashioned way and he had failed at it. He had been in shock for several days, saying initially that he was just giving up, that it wasn't worth all the effort, etc., It was very unlike him to be accepting a cooking defeat.

Thus, my first glimmer that tapioca was still in the offing was that the kitchen was transformed with giant bowls and tapioca like ingredients. This was all lined up like good little soldiers in a row.

But there was a strange look on Felix's face. He seemed to be listening for something rather than moving forward with his tapioca. I asked, "Are you waiting for something?"

"Yes, Fed Ex should be arriving with my double boiler any minute now."

A few minutes later the new double boiler arrived and the kitchen became off limits for me. It was fully in use and if I attempted walking in there, chances are I'd get my head bitten off.

I went back to my computer and the tapioca making continued. He had found a new recipe online. He was using non-instant tapioca and with dairy products. He'd tried it with vegan products first and that's when it blew up on him. I have noticed that it helps if one already knows how to cook something the "regular" way before attempting a vegan conversion. We are not vegans but we do use a lot of almond and soy milk as substitutes nutritionally.

If you want to find the non-instant tapioca, plan on visiting about five grocery stores. Then, when you find the one that has it, plan on getting down on the floor because that is where they will have placed it. It is rare to need something on the bottom shelf at the supermarket but tapioca is located there. Or go to Nuts and order online.

As I piddled around with my stuff while he was cooking, I must admit that I suddenly noticed this wonderful aroma in the air. That is usually a pretty good indicator. About half an hour later I was eating my first bowl of it. It was hot so it wasn't congealed yet but it was great. Several hours later when it had set in the refrigerator, it was just like the tapioca you've always eaten. I must say it is indeed better than what I'd been buying in the supermarket in a big plastic tub for him.

We went through the tapioca in record time and he'd made multiple loads of it. Heck, we had it for breakfast two mornings in a row and it was great.

I was surprised to discover that his new double boiler was sitting out in the open in the kitchen afterwards. Felix usually views with utter horror the very idea that I will use his new implements with my Oscar ways. It is much more usual for him to hide "the new thing" so I won't ruin it. I got him a beautiful German bread knife a few years ago and he immediately hid it, worried that I would dull it with my own "use any knife for any purpose" mind bent.  It is true that I will just as likely slice open a UPS package as a loaf of bread with that knife. For this reason I have no idea where he stashes his shaving razor as he is convinced I would cause him to slice open his face after "borrowing" his razor. So why is this new double boiler out in the open?

But of course; he knows I could never stand the fussiness and time consuming nature of using such a cooking implement. I am the uncrowned Microwave Queen who thinks of cooking something as the number of minutes of zapping required. Would I ever patiently stir tapioca over the stove, stirring and stirring the mixture in a double boiler?  Mystery solved.

Filomena, his mother, died a little over a year ago. One thing she always made for him was a big bowl of his own custard. He would go through one of these big bowls in record time. This went on decade after decade. The tapioca is very close to being like that custard. There is something about pudding that always reminds one of being a child, of the sweet comfort of such a food. As William Faulkner said, The past is never dead. It's not even past.

There is an ultimate Felix kitchen story. The first year we were married I returned to our apartment after visiting a friend. Felix met me at the door. "Now stay calm, don't get upset," he said. Have such words ever calmed anyone down? He pulled me into the kitchen and the dishwasher was open. Every piece of my silver was in the dishwasher and it looked like it was 200 years old. I had never seen such thick tarnish. 

"I wanted to get it really clean so I threw bleach in the dishwasher with it." He held up one piece he'd been holding and it looked normal. "I already used silver polish on one. It takes awhile but it does come off. It's going to take me a couple of weeks but it will all look fine." 

It took months but I eventually did get all of my silver restored to me. Ever since he has been a sparing user of bleach and will not use it in any clothes wash at all. I saw him fighting mildew with it one day but he has to be desperate to drag it out.

He is not the only fool with bleach though. I am still a figure of some amusement here because I had to call 911 to get the rescue squad out here because I'd used vinegar on an art project after having used bleach on it. Vinegar stops the effects of bleach. It also can cause gas vapors in combination which have you tearing up, choking and so forth. They can be quite deadly. I was trying to get a "burn out" effect on this shirt and almost burned out my lungs instead, not to mention the condo itself. It was beyond embarrassing to see the rescue workers standing over my shirt where I'd thrown it out in the front yard. It took me about six months to live that one down and Felix enjoyed telling anyone who hadn't been around what I had done. So I can't say I haul out bleach much these days either.

As I close this entry out, I must say I am really hungering for another load of Felix tapioca. I have become a convert.

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