My son had chicken pox a few weeks ago. He got off pretty easy, all things considered. When his sisters had it, years ago, they were paved with spots and truly miserable. I am glad he could knock it off his bucket list with less unhappiness. Like his sisters, my own tiptoe through those tulips was epic.

I went to a very academic and rigorous and you can go ahead and say snooty private school, where I learned a tremendous amount, especially about being a student, and where I made some lifelong friends whom I treasure, and where I came to loathe and despise the concept of 'living up to your potential.' The most crucial way to demonstrate that you were reaching this mysterious benchmark was getting in to college. So senior year was a crescendo of pressure: apply, keep grades up, stay on top of numerous resumé-building projects, etc. In my case the project was the yearbook, which had to be delivered to the printer right before winter break, which was also the point at which all applications had to be in, and furthermore all academic work leading to grades that would be reported to colleges was due at this same moment as well. We all fell in to that break like off a cliff, and in my lucky case it involved a dream vacation on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands with my family, where I woke up on day 2 with a blinding headache and allover malaise. On day 3, I came out in spots and was packed off to a clinic that may or may not have been on St. John. There was a friendly Indian doctor with a pronounced accent. He looked me over.

"Has she been swimming?" he asked my parents.

"I have," I said, "but I think I have chicken pox."

"She could be having a reaction to something in the water," he said to my mother.

"But I think I have chicken pox," I said.

"It could be fish eggs," he mused.

"But I don't feel allergic, I feel sick," I said.

"She thinks she may have the chicken pox," my mother said to the doctor.

He laughed. "Oh, no," he said. "If you had chicken pox, you would feel sick!" He turned back to my parents. "She would be MUCH SICKER in that case. It is allergic." He directed the very large nurse in the room to administer a shot of Benadryl, and fell into conversation with my parents as she trundled across the room with what appeared to be a javelin full of the stuff.

A little cabin in the bow of a sailboat in hot weather loses some of its charm when you are feverish and rashy. When I got back to New York, Lucy Bailey and I (the only two people in our class who had not had chicken pox in grade school) compared notes on our itchy vacations, and what do you know but she had spent it in bed with the chicken pox.

My mother took me out to buy some make-up to cheer me up.

"What are we looking for today?" said the clerk at the counter of the fancy store.

"Do you have a cream that's good for dry skin?" I asked.

"This is wonderful for oily skin," he told my mother, smiling conspiratorially.

"But I have dry skin," I said, perhaps a little edgily.

"This is good for oily skin," he said, perhaps a little testily.

"But my skin is dry," I perhaps whined.

"But darling," he said, not tenderly, pointing to the pox on my face, "we're blossoming."

Reader, I killed him.

"Could be fish eggs," said in as close an approximation of an Indian accent as we can muster, became a catch-phrase in our family, and of course this brings us right around to tapioca, which is a lunchbox staple around here. Remember, we are all about loving the lunchbox this week. Did I distract you with my feverish ramblings?

Fruit tapioca is tasty and fast to make, and looks so much like tadpole eggs that I am sure you could find a good name for it to honor Roald Dahl and make this appealing to any skeptics in your house. I have no skeptics in my house. In my house I have to hide it in order to have enough for the lunchboxes the next day.

It’s a bit of a reach to call this a recipe. I measured things this time, just to make sure I would be giving you a functional formula, but usually it’s all done by glops and dollops and pretty much always comes out fine. The top pick around here is peach, for which I use any pink or orange juice (think: lemonade, apricot mango, orange & carrot), frozen peaches and maybe some honey if the juice is not sweet enough. Raspberry is another favorite. You can substitute instant or minute tapioca for the small pearl, in which case you eliminate the soaking step and make it even faster--just dump everything in the pot and cook. Don't be hindered by my peach rut--the possible combinations of fruits and juices are endless.

fruit tapioca

  • 2/3 c small pearl tapioca
  • ¾ c water
  • 3 c fruit juice
  • 2 c coarsely chopped fresh or frozen fruit
  • Depending on the sweetness of your juice, ¼ to ½ cup of apple juice concentrate, or a few T of sugar or honey or agave nectar

In a medium saucepan, put the tapioca to soak with the ¾ c of water for about half an hour.

Dump in the remaining ingredients, taste for sweetness and adjust as necessary. Bring to a low boil, stirring all the while to prevent the tapioca glumping to the bottom of the pot, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until a few of the tapioca balls test soft (they do not need to be clear, just tender). Pour into a lidded container and cool, then cover and refrigerate.