We were out the other evening, and for some reason we started talking about puddings we ate at school or when we were young. Now most people at the event were in their fifties, so we all had similar experiences of ‘school puddings’ and certain culprits kept being recalled.
Tapioca was mentioned. I shuddered! Indeed this ‘frog-spawn’ of a milky dessert was my very least favourite. OK OK! I didn’t like it AT ALL! I once sat in front of a bowl of it ALL LUNCH BREAK, age 7, because I wouldn’t eat it! It meant I missed the whole lunch playtime – that was a big punishment!
And that was before I ever knew WHAT tapioca was or where it came from. I mean, how on earth did we get to eat this stuff. I know it is a staple in some parts of the world now, but which native Brazilian first thought ‘Oh, I’ll try eating the mashed up roots of this cassava plant’ – and died! (containing cyanide producing enzymes, it is highly poisonous!) Then the next person thought – ‘OH, perhaps I can wash the ‘badness’ out of it’ .. but still dies.. then the next thought – perhaps if it is washed AND cooked it’ll be ok…. and it was, (and, by the way, this process is really complicated ). How on earth? But here we are – what is a staple (like potato or rice is elsewhere) – is, in this country, a dessert we call tapioca, a name derived from the original name of tipi’óka in the Tupi language of South America. (more on Cassava and tapioca here and here)
Other desserts that bubble up in my memory from the depth of childhood are: Semolina, with a blob of so-called jam in the middle, banana custard – fluorescent yellow with the odd slice of browning banana here and there, red jelly so firm that your spoon bounced rather than cut it, rice-pudding swimming in a watery white liquid freckled with yellow globules (of butter, we hoped) or so thick it stood up on its own with a burnt flavour skin broken up into little bits throughout it. It’s not that I really dislike any of this group of puddings, unlike tapioca, it’s just the school versions.
I do remember one pudding that was good at our village primary school, apple pie with a very sweet, though rather thick, crust. We only had this when the apples were in season and it is quite likely that it was made with apples from the tree in the headteacher’s garden (attached to the school) as sometimes a child or two was sent to pick up all the windfalls there.
I have great difficulty thinking of any other school puddings that I actually liked or looked forward to – and this may be an age thing. Having a scout round the internet I find that message boards populated by ‘young things’ going to school in the 1980’s, reporting many favourite puddings – with the likes of cornflake chocolate crunch, butterscotch slice, chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, or even, arctic roll. I don’t ever remember anything like this – nor do the message boards of those of us in school in the fifties and sixties.
Mind you, the eighties would be when the school catering had been put out to tender by Maggie Thatcher’s government and so had to attract the customer, incidentally the same time that the ‘meals’ were turkey drummers, pizza and chips and rated as far poorer, nutritionally, than in the 1950s. (Just the stuff Jamie Oliver campaigned against 2004 onwards)
So, what era do you fit in to and what are your memories of school puddings?
Which one did you loathe ? Which did you love?
Lets compare notes – go on – share your thoughts – you know I love to hear from you!