Friday, 5 August 2011

How to be Unable to Make Custard

With profound, sincere and regrettable apologies to HC

As an expert Incompetent, I’m often asked, “How can I be unable to make …?” and the question is invariably followed by something seemingly simple like “…a cup of tea?” or “…Heinz spaghetti?” or even “…a sandwich?” Well, before we come over all smug and superior about our own supposed areas of incompetence, it would be well to remember that to be properly incompetent takes real thoughtlessness and carelessness.

I was recently asked, “How can I be unable to make custard?” and I suppose that one might think it really simple to be unable to make custard; but far from it. Custard can be bought from most supermarkets in a tin or a carton. Once home, one can simply use a tin opener or a pair of scissors to open the container and then pour the custard out. So, you see – to be unable to make this type of custard takes an unusually high degree of incompetence. One could try opening the tin with the scissors, or the carton with the tin opener, but you’ll still have custard; in order to be unable to make this sort of custard, one would have to be perhaps incompetently clumsy, and drop it on the floor; or put it in a saucepan which already contained something else (like Heinz spaghetti; or a sandwich; or a cup of tea).

To be unable to make custard from a packet requires less incompetence, and one must simply follow the golden rule for being unable to do something from a packet: never read the instructions. So, instead of adding milk, one might add water, or absent-mindedly pour in some Worcestershire sauce; if it says “Just add a pint of milk” in giant letters on the side, then incompetently add a litre. Have a go. Use your imagination and in not time at all, you will find that, with a bit of practice, you will be unable to make “powdered” custard.

For the connoisseur, though, why not use the raw ingredients for custard, as I always do? To demonstrate a high level of culinary idiocy, like all things, requires just a simple bit of knowledge and a whopping helping of ignorance, and here’s the secret to being unable to make custard: custard contains something like eggs, sugar and milk. That’s the knowledge part. And now for the ignorance: but in what quantities and how to combine them? Therein lies the key to being unable to make custard. Now, armed with both knowledge and ignorance, you can experiment with different amounts, assembling them in a different order and even different heats, etc. I once made a fantastically unsuccessful custard by failing to turn the heat on. Why? I was making cold custard, like you get from a carton/tin.

So, there you have it. The answer to the question: “How Can I Be Unable to Make Custard”

In next week’s column, I shall be considering how to answer the age old question, “Do you know the way to Redditch from here?” 

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