Thar She Blows!

(Courtesy of

One of the great joys of my life was reaching an age where I no longer had to automatically go on vacation with my parents.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love to travel, I just didn’t like going anywhere with my parents.  Our trips were relegated to twice-yearly visits with distant relatives I hardly knew and, since my folks were never what you’d call “go out and have a rousing good time” sort of people, consisted of sitting around doilied living rooms listening to other people talk.

Death to a teenager.

So when I got to be around 15, I told them I didn’t want to go.  I don’t recall my father caring one way or another, but Mom was worried about leaving me alone, fraught with terror that any number of ills would befall me while out of her protective sight.  I held firm, pleading my case, and she finally agreed — IF I allowed my niece Michelle to stay with me.  At that point, I’d have agreed to just about anything to get them in the car and gone, but I still wonder what “protection” she thought a 10-year-old would be.

At any rate, my parents departed, leaving us to our own devices.  And, my, but didn’t we feel so grown up and independent and worldly!  We played music loud, stayed up late, all those “rebel” tendencies.  (Hah!  We were the most staid rebels you’ve ever seen.  Not a cigarette or a glass of wine to be seen.  We’d never have dared and, in fact, I’m not sure the thought ever crossed our minds.)

But one night, getting ready to watch some movie on television (this was back in the Ice Age before cable or VHS or DVDs; anyone else remember “Movie of the Week?”), Michelle expressed a desire for a snack.  We rifled the kitchen cabinets, came up with an ancient box of tapioca, and decided to make pudding.  Neither of us had ever done it before, but we’d watched my mother do it and, honestly, how hard can it be if you follow the directions printed on the box?

How much to make, though?  The recipe as written seemed skimpy.  We were hungry! 

So we made the entire box.

Have you ever seen the really big mixing bowls our grandmothers once used?  They held lots (and I mean LOTS) — everything from vast quantities of rising bread dough to quarts of strawberries.  Ours looked like this:

(Courtesy of

It was big.


And it was full of tapioca pudding.

We let it cool just past the tongue-scalding stage before we lugged it into the living room and sat down on either side of it in front of the television, each of us armed with a spoon.

The two of us ate the entire thing.  Down to the bare crockery.  Licked it clean.

Six cups of milk.  A cup of tapioca.  A cup of sugar.  Four eggs.

Oh, my God.

We lay on the carpet like pregnant beached whales, moaning with despair until we were finally able to get up and shamble off to bed like a pair of undead ticks, bloated beyond belief.  In the morning, we swore we would never eat tapioca again.  I’m pretty sure Michelle has kept that promise all these years.

Come to think of it, so have I.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Childhood, Dessert, Essays, Food, Melissa Crandall, Memoir and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thar She Blows!

  1. MJ Allaire says:

    LOL .. I’ve never had tapioca pudding. Never made it. Probably never seen it. But I can totally picture it here. I’m surprised you both finished it! Now I know what to give you for Christmas 🙂

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