An unappetizing dish of tapioca served to a guest in a Boston boarding house led to an improved product on the grocery shelves.
Susan Stavers was a bit upset by the reaction of her guest when he tasted her lumpy tapioca. She asked if he could make it any better.
"Grind it up. Run the tapioca through your coffee grinder before you make the pudding,' he told her.
She did and the next time the pudding met his approval, as well as all the other borders.
News spread about this different way to prepare tapioca, and soon Susan Stavers was selling a sizable amount of her tapioca in paper bags to folks in her community.
Newspaperman John Whitman heard about the tapioca process and bought the rights to it. He organized the Whitman Grocery Company and sold what he called Tapioca Superlative. That was in 1894.
A year or so later, the name was changed to Minute Tapioca using the trademark of the Minute Man. The company grew and prospered, and in 1927 it became part of the General Foods family.
In recent years, the manufacturing process of tapioca has undergone a complete change. Today, tapioca is possibly near the top of the list of desserts served in many households. Some like it plain. Others use it in pies. Some like a variation occasionally with fruit in season, such as the recipe below.
3 1/2 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples
2/3 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed and divided
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine the apples, half of the juice, and the cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and let it simmer until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes, depending on the apples. While the apples are simmering, mix the remaining one-third cup of juice concentrate and the tapioca and allow to stand at least five minutes. When apples are tender, add the tapioca mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer an additional three to five minutes. Allow the tapioca to stand at least 20 minutes before serving.
The recipe below, by Peggy Overly Kreider, was a winning recipe at the Rhubarb Festival at The Kitchen Kettle Village. She also contributed it to The Overly Clan Cookbook - Feeding the Flock.
Rhubarb Pineapple Sauce
2 1/4 cup rhubarb
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 1/4 cup water
Combine all ingredients and let stand for 5 minutes. Cook until rhubarb is soft and falls apart. Cool and serve. Used by permission.