Celebrating the Magic of Vanilla Custard (8/17)

This List loves the custard, boy! It was good enough for me to celebrate just plain old National Custard Day back in May. Then, it was National Frozen Custard Day just last month. Now it’s National Vanilla Custard Day. Oye! Of course, eating custard three days over the course of a few months is no trouble. I don’t even mind making it, since custard isn’t something anyone’s really making quarts and gallons of for retail these days.

The difficulty about so many of these custard days is that every time one comes up, I’m committed to writing stuff about it. I’ve reviewed the history; I’ve gone over my personal opinions of it; I’ve gone over my daughter’s opinions of it. “So what’s left to say about this weird eggy pudding?” I deeply question myself. I mean, can custard actually be interesting?

Turns out, it kind of can. The science behind custard is something that has been explored quite well over the years. One of the most interesting things about the dessert is that it turns out it is an example of an anti-Neutonian liquid. This essentially means that if your church is recreating scenes from the New Testament, has a big budget and you needed one of the players to walk on water, you could pull off the illusion with custard. Of course, you’d need the actor to quickly jump across because the magical nature of this kind of non-Neutonian device causes the fluid to briefly become solid when you strike it (or jump on it) and liquify when you move slowly. Quick sand does this too, so don’t fill the pool too deep.

This is when the magic happens.

There are apparently all kinds of magic that happens when you start combining eggs, corn starch, and sugar, and then start heating the mess up. Eggs themselves, it turns out have two funky chemical properties that really screw with cooking all on their own. They are the different enzymes in the whites and in the yellows of the egg that function as protection for the little chick from carbohydrates that exist on harmful bacterial cells. Those same carb-fighting enzymes are what cause your eggs to become all hard and chewy when you cook them too fast or overcook them. Carbohydrates breaking down can be a real problem when corn starch is a primary ingredient of the recipe. It is, after all, a carb. Throw in the fact that sugar bends the temperature when eggs actually coagulate? Woof! Suddenly custard is a freaking science experiment that can go horribly wrong  at any given moment.

Freaky stuff, right? Happy Vanilla Custard Day!

See you Saturday for National Ice Cream Pie Day.


About Jim Clark

"If it was worth doing, then it is worth writing!" -- Jim Clark -- Someone else probably said that before, and I'm sure that each semester she starts her Creative Writing 101 class by writing it on the board, but I never took that lady's class so I am taking her quote! I work in the world of advertising, but I write for a living. Here in the second decade of the '00s, we find ourselves in a culture where virtually everyone writes for a living. With all the clicking and clacking on Facebook, Twitter, emails and texts, our lives are more than ever intertwined with writing. At the same time, it's also become increasingly more important to shorten our thoughts down to as few characters as possible. So, now, more than ever, I think it's also important to hold a place in our lives for expanding and honing our thoughts through writing. This is my place for that.
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