When I was growing up in England in the 50’s, no meal seemed complete if the food was not blanketed in a creamy, wet and warm substance. If we had a pie, a crumble, or a crisp of some sort, it was smothered in the yellow goodness of Bird’s custard.
“Though cooked custard is a weak gel, viscous and thixotropic, a suspension of uncooked custard powder (starch) in water, with the proper proportions, has the opposite rheological property: it is negative thixotropic, or dilatant, which is to say that it becomes more viscous when under pressure. This suspension is termed oobleck and often used in science demonstrations of non-Newtonian fluids. The popular-science programme Brainiac: Science Abuse demonstrated dilatancy dramatically by filling a swimming pool with this mixture and having presenter Jon Tickle walk across it."
When it came time for a quick gravy for our Sunday joint or any other meat, we turned to Bisto. I seem to remember lots of advertisements for it in what passed for Social Media in the 50s and 60’s, but I don’t think it had any rivals. Like custard it started with a powder containing a thickener that was mixed with water and heated. Don’t know if it was thixotropic. Again, it was a ubiquitous blanket for meat and found its way over to the mashed potatoes.
When I eventually set up shop for myself, there was no Bisto in the States, so I had to go the long route. I was beguiled with words like “deglaze”, “wine” and “loosen the crusty bits”. More often than not, much to my husband’s disgust, I skipped the gravy part altogether. Too much work.
market and in my search for the shelf with bouillon cubes—look what I discovered!
A quick and easy coating for our meat (and mashed potatoes) and the source of Ernie’s heartfelt thanks.
Maybe I should be on the lookout for custard powder.