I love custard. It is probably in my top ten list of foods that make me think of home. However, I am not thinking of egg custard here. Oh no. My one true love in the custard stakes is Bird’s Custard Powder custard. The one where you have to add your own sugar and milk so you can make it as thin or as thick as you like.
That said, it’s not just the taste of the custard that I love. It’s the package design, that glorious egg yellow, blue and red – primary colours used frequently in the 1930’s. It’s the fact that Alfred Bird created it for his wife because she was allergic to eggs. It’s the association of cold nights and warm puddings, and in our house, prunes.
We used to play a game whose elements comprised having a bowl of custard and ‘prunes from the tin’ divided between us all. The idea was to eat the prunes and count how many stones you had thusly:- tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, richman, poorman, beggarman, thief. Depending how many stones you had left in your dish would dictate the profession of who you would eventually marry.
It all seemed a very normal part of childhood. I never once questioned whether the stones were ‘rigged’, the ethics of the game, or indeed why on earth it would be so exciting to play. But it was for almost all of us around the table. My grandfather, who lived with us at the time, was probably the one who instigated the game, but I recall usually completely discounting him as not really eligible to play, despite him having various ladies regularly call on the telephone.
Sometimes it was Olive, other times, Alice. Impressively though, if he didn’t want to speak to them he would declare he could no longer hear what they were saying and place the handset onto the receiver without giving whoever it was on the other end, a chance to speak up. A personality trait I adored. It still makes me smile to this day.
So you see custard is not just about the taste, the texture, the accompanying crumble, pie, tart or trifle elements. Custard, for me, is a warm cosy feeling of togetherness.
Which is exactly what you need on a cold autumn day.