Magazine article The Spectator

Drink: Bruce Anderson

Magazine article The Spectator

Drink: Bruce Anderson

Article excerpt

There are those who claim that this column is idiosyncratic. They have seen nothing yet. I am about to mention a subject which has never previously appeared in any drink column, ever. Tapioca. That must be the acme of idiosyncrasy.

I was staying with my friends Eyzie and Ro in Somerset. Especially if you have no weight issues, they are the perfect hosts, for they both love cooking. My duties are limited to bottle-opening, saucisson-slicing and, of course, supervision. They also have an abundant kitchen garden, a deep freeze full of the trophies of the game season and excellent local suppliers for all the victuals they themselves cannot provide. A long room connects the kitchen and the dining table, with a constant traffic of boys, dogs and bottles. At its epicentre is a lesser but dual-capability dining table which began life as a butcher's block and is still used as such, especially for preparing steak tartare.

That was on the menu, as were gulls' eggs, sundry fishy dishes and -- -tapioca: Ro's idea for a pudding. At first I assumed that this was a joke. Hadn't they been made to eat it at school? My generation was, called it 'frogspawn' and tried every possible way of avoiding actually consuming it. Even more so than liver with tubes, it was one of the horrors of the antediluvian school diet. But Ro and Eyzie had no such traumatised memories. I asked Ned and Louis whether they had tapioca at school. 'No, what is it?' 'Comes from the root of a Latin American plant. Used as a pudding.' Then, casually, not wanting to put them off: 'Sometimes nicknamed frogspawn.' All that meant nothing to them. 'What's the food like at school?' I inquired. 'So-so,' came the answer, from which I drew the obvious conclusion. Generations of boys were served disgusting food, ate all of it -- including the tubular liver -- except for the frogspawn, complained noisily, and scoffed up any second helpings. …

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