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<   No. 4083   2019-09-18    

Comic #4083

1 Wendy: When we be sailin’ from this port, the ship be tossin’ and rollin’ on the waves.
2 Wendy: It be makin’ e’en the toughest sailors green about the gills.
3 Wendy: Be ye havin’ a strong stomach, lad?
4 Higgs: I used to eat second serves of me mam’s tapioca puddin’. Sometimes thirds.
4 Wendy: Ah, ye’ll be fine.

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Poll: How adventurous are you with food?

Tapioca is a starch produced from cassava tubers. Cassava is native to South America, and was encountered by the Spanish early in their colonisation of the New World, though they treated it with disdain, believing it to be non-nutritious and even dangerous to their delicate European constitutions, preferring to consume bread, meat, and wine instead. However bread made from wheat flour deteriorated quickly in the tropical conditions of the Caribbean, whereas tapioca bread was more robust, so an industry sprang up in Cuba to provide tapioca bread as supplies for sailing ships, despite the fact that the sailors who had to eat the stuff complained that it upset their digestion.

So tapioca was certainly around during the Age of Piracy.

Tapioca pudding is more difficult to establish an early history for. Several sources on the net state unequivocally that tapioca pudding was invented in 1894 in Boston by a housewife named Susan Stavers, who then sold the recipe to an enterprising business man named John Witman, who quickly filed a trademark and started the Minute Tapioca Company - which apparently still exists to this day as a brand name acquired at some point by Kraft. This makes a nice origin story for a corporate trademark.

However, points out that Mrs Isabella Beeton of London mentions tapioca pudding in her seminal 1861 cookery book Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management - although she only provides an explicit recipe for tapioca soup, leaving the tapioca pudding merely mentioned as a tantalising hint of a sweet treat that might perhaps follow. Mrs Beeton may have had success with her book, but modern analysis shows that she plagiarised almost the entirety of the content from other (lesser known) recipe books available at the time. So there seems to be little doubt that tapioca pudding existed in England some time before 1861.

So... it may well have existed in the Caribbean by the 16th century.

Irregular Webcomic! - Not Provably Anachronistic. This Time.

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