In which I avoid making a 'custardy' gag



I have developed a new approach to autumn meal planning: start with the custard and work backwards. Now, everything I eat after 3pm is simply warming up for the evening custard. Paving the way. Vegetables, rice, protein; all just a digestive chore until I reach the river of golden reward that is the custard.

Since I hit on this new regime, it’s made the lesser aspects of seasonal shift all the more palatable. Rain? Custard. Dark? Custard. Getting dressed under the covers, because you can see your own breath in your bedroom? Excellent, more custard.

Of course, some people don’t like custard. I didn’t, for a portion of my childhood. I didn’t trust it. For one thing, it covered up my pudding to the point where I worried it was gone forever. It introduced an unwieldy liquid element into formerly solid desserts. It looked like the gunge from Get Your Own Back and tasted like… well, like yellow.

But soon, I began to recognize custard’s supreme power as an accompaniment. It can transform even the most dismal of dessert options into something comfortingly stodgy and sublime. Put a rich tea, the pauper’s tea-dunker, into the bottom of a bowl of custard and it instantly gains the kudos of a far superior biscuit. Add some cut up banana and you’ve got a pud so wholly delicious that it forgets it has anything to do with fruit.

All the coolest people are into custard. Doctor Who, who famously eats it with fishfingers (a combo which makes more sense when you acknowledge that hollandaise, as my friend Daisy pointed out, is just ‘savoury custard’); Custard from Rhubarb and Custard. In the process of writing this, I even found a wikianswers article called ‘Does Zac Efron like custard?’, to which the answer was a resounding ‘yes!’.

The best thing I have ever done with custard was melt a chocolate Freddo in the middle of it. The second thing was invent custard porridge. The third was the thing everyone has done with custard, which is to add a little water to the powder and make a freaky moving liqui-solid, like the kind of science experiment enthusiastic parents do with their children in half term to make sure TV doesn’t turn their brains to bin juice.

 I’ve had fancy custard, of course, made with cream and vanilla and all manner of heavenly manna, but it was almost too delicious to be allowed as a genuine foodstuff – like sticking a spoon in some cake icing and calling it dinner. Bird’s custard, however, with its exciting powder-mixing ritual and vague whiff of wartime austerity, feels like the more everyday treat.

Naysayers would argue that without egg, it isn’t proper custard at all. But then, naysayers would probably also claim you can’t write a whole column about custard, and I’ve just proved them wrong.