Looking back on it, I wonder if my teachers in junior high and high school kind of dreaded assigning major projects when I was in the class to which they were assigning them. I have never been one to Keep It Simple, Stupid, and neither has my Dad, honestly, who was usually the one to help me with these projects. There was this really ill-fated “simple” machine experiment designed by Dad when I was in 9th grade, for example. I’m trying to get in touch with that teacher to see if he still, by some miracle, has the video he took of it, so I can show you what I mean.
The rest of the time, I came up with the crazy ideas on my own, and my dad helped me. I have many such projects I could tell you about, but Friday’s story about the Indian pudding reminded me of the Food Projects. (There were a few, but today I’ll just tell you about one.) The reason it reminded me of the Food Projects is because . . .
In 8th grade we were learning about Native American tribes and each of us had to pick one and research it and then make something to present to the class by a certain date. I don’t know if it’s because my birthday is in the summer and I never got to bring cupcakes to class to celebrate it like everyone else, and so therefore I was subconsciously trying to make up for it, but to me, “share it with the class” made me think of food, and so I decided to make acorn pudding. I regret to say I no longer remember which tribe I chose to research, nor do I remember what I found out about them–besides that they lived in the Northeast like me and that they occasionally ate acorns–because the project became so acorn-centric that I really pretty much lost the plot probably even before I made the presentation.
Even as a child, I’ve been one of those people who can’t stand to waste things, and also who likes to find uses for things that appear to be useless. I already knew the tops of acorns were great for whistling–which was helpful since I’m not very good at whistling otherwise. But squirrels and other animals eat acorns, and I had probably been wondering for a few years already about whether people could eat them. It turned out they used to, and what was more, this book I found had something of a recipe for this pudding that this Native American tribe had, evidently, used to make and eat.
So I went into the back yard and harvested acorns. There were a lot of acorns. I harvested a lot of acorns. Then I had to get the meat out of all of them. Then I had to boil them to soften them. They smelled terrible, but this was my project, and I was pretty excited to find out that you could eat acorns, so I wasn’t going to let anything like an acrid aroma put me off or anything. Nor, apparently, the fact that the book I was using noted that sometimes some acorns are poisonous or something. I must have “neglected” to tell my parents that part, because I can’t quite believe they would have countenanced my continuing on with this project and then feeding it to my classmates. Either that or they were pretty sure no one would actually try it.
After the acorns were boiled, I think I had to mash them, and mix them with corn meal and . . . some other stuff. I really don’t remember what the other stuff was, but the resulting mash ended up looking exactly like my Paul’s Indian pudding. It didn’t taste anywhere near as good, though. I do recall dumping inordinate amounts of sugar into the mess in a desperate attempt to make it palatable, but I was totally unsuccessful. In the end, I just spread it in a 9″ by 13″ glass casserole dish, baked it, and brought it to school the next day. Everybody got a slice on a napkin in class. I’m not sure how many people, besides me, actually tried it.
I am happy to report, however, that nobody died.