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Let’s Cook: Tapioca and Relaxation

As many of you know, we are fans of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. We often prepare special meals, set our table with dishes from the past and present, and each evening enjoy the timeless holiday classic of sitting in the presence of the lighted Christmas tree while enjoying some quiet time with each other. We often spend time wrapping gifts for each other, but nights like this allow us to wrap ourselves with the company of each other.

All is calm as the three of us take turns visiting about the Christmas traditions we enjoy. It is a time for Lydia to gain some insight to her heritage as we reminisce about our parents, grandparents and siblings and Christmas joys with them. It also includes some current trends that her parents are simply unaware but echoed pleasantly by Lydia. Conversation is from time to time paused for someone to say, “more bonbons, please.” After a sweet nibble and a sip of Jan’s truly homemade hot chocolate, we continue on – sometimes it has even brought us to the woods in winter. It is a tradition at some point to read Robert Frost’s, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

This past summer, we moved Jan’s childhood piano to our home, and it is a plush hour of enjoyment when she is playing Christmas hymns and carols. It is one of the gifts that she gives that simply needs no wrapping. A little while later, Jan and I enjoy Christmas carols played by Lydia on her string bass, and we cannot help but to think of ‘Rest, ye merry gentlemen.’ Again we take time to recline and listen. If we had a fireplace, I would have put a log on, and then recline.

Does wrap, fold and trim with ribbon remind you of anything? During the 12 days of Christmas that is a gift I give myself. I often find it in the kindness of a friend, an unexpected Christmas card with a letter, a wreath on the front door heralding the season, Christmas hymns sung by a choir, holly and berries, Christmas linens, treasured ornaments, boxes of fruit delivered by FFA students, orange chocolate, bell ringers in stores, lighted angels and stars on trees, and the sight of Jan and Lydia baking together. All free for simply the viewing and savoring.

Graceful and pretty as a snow angel described how the finishing topping looked on the dessert I had prepared for our 11th day of celebrating Christmas. Cooking and baking for me has always been a joy, and whenever I am in the kitchen, I consider myself a lucky man. It is here that the opportunity to give comes easy and creativity and taste often celebrate with a flourish. It is my sense of place, and this Christmas I was reminded once again this comfort and joy was given to me by my mom.

For several years, I have noticed in the grocery aisle that tapioca was not jumping off the shelf. Well, that has all changed with the recent pandemic. In fact, there was a time you could not find it. This made me smile. I realized that others now had time to enjoy a cook’s tour of tapioca. I looked high and low for small and large pearl tapioca and also Minute Tapioca. After several weeks, a limited amount appeared.

In my home, Dad and I were fans of old-fashioned creamy tapioca. As we dipped our Twin Star patterned spoons into this well of goodness, it was easy to understand why it had such a long-standing popularity. As many of you know, tapioca combines well with milk and eggs and almost all fruits and fruit juices thus giving the maker a creativity canvas to fashion many delicious desserts. Did you know there are several types of Minute Tapioca desserts? There are desserts cooked on top of the stove, and which are partially cooked on top of the stove, and then turned into a baking dish and completed in the oven.

Until recently, I had only made Minute Tapioca on the stovetop. Since I had the time, I decided to finish our Christmas dessert in the oven. It is one recipe that I will make again. I do enjoy using pearl tapioca; however, it requires soaking. Since Minute Tapioca is partially cooked and ground before packaging, it requires no soaking and needs only a brief cooking time. You can use the extra time you saved to hunt down stylish sherbet glasses that you will want to use for a proper pudding presentation.

The 12 days of Christmas has now ended, and the enjoyed celebration seems so short for such an important time in the history of mankind. What has not ended is the daily ritual of recalling the many, many blessings bestowed each day that surround us. They are like ribbons around gifts just waiting to be untied and enjoyed.

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