Earlier I spoke about the taste of home-grown pineapple when it is eaten as soon as it is plucked. This time I’m going to tell you about tapioca. You must experiment with it. According to one historical version, long ago during the time of acute famine in Kerala, Vishakham Thirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore, introduced tapioca from Brazil. But no one was interested in it. Tapioca was considered poor man’s food, a filler at best, with no nutritional value.
In my childhood days, the general opinion was that eating rice was a matter of prestige whereas tapioca, that of shame. A kilo of tapioca used to cost only 20 paise. If you went without a bag, shopkeepers preferred to sling it from a string and hand it over because it was not worth wasting a newspaper wrapper on! A kilo of rice, on the contrary, cost nearly three rupees. Today rice costs Rs 35 per kilo, and tapioca Rs 30 per kilo. This 150 % hike came about when all hotels in Kerala, including five-star ones, and bar rooms began serving the tuber as the main dish. As its status improved, it became more costly.
But even today we don’t know its actual taste because hotels don’t do tapioca farming in their backyard. It is brought to your town from somewhere far away, by which time its taste has faded. Cultivate tapioca in a bucket in your terrace garden, and bake it as soon as you pluck it. We will show you how to do it, in old Kerala style. Earlier it was customary to bake raw and ripe banana, colocasia and tapioca using the traditional stove and firewood. That can be done easily and without damaging our environment. All it requires is a metal plate. As soon as it is baked, it can be eaten with a chammanthi made from a couple of home-grown bird’s eye chilly, or kanthaari mulaku as it is locally called.
A terrace garden not only makes us self-sufficient but gives us an opportunity to learn the authentic taste of vegetables, and appreciate the magic of Nature as well. I tell me daughter that although various exotic-sounding crab dishes are publicized by hotels, cookery websites and recipes, real taste and satisfaction lies in eating what we find around us. Only when you experience the taste of freshness will you understand its true worth. Those who do organic farming or grow Miyawaki forests can try their hand at this. It may perhaps change your attitude towards life altogether.
Rather than spend time on other pursuits, you may opt to grow plants and make food on your own. That will give you greater mental satisfaction and appease your gustatory sense too. Once you realize it, you may be willing to set apart some time for vegetable cultivation.