Crème caramel

Well, I don’t think I’ll be winning any prizes for food photography with this shot, but this is last night’s dessert, crème caramel. It was ever so good.

No one made any snide comments about the choice of a French dessert to follow my very British main course (which went down extremely well, by the way) – maybe people don’t think of it as being French but rather a fairly international dessert.

It’s a type of baked custard.

When I hear the word custard, I certainly think of hot vanilla-flavoured sauce poured over some very British dessert: apple crumble, spotted dick, treacle pudding… The French serve it cold and call it crème anglaise (which the Germans took over as Englische Creme, so they must have thought of it as typically British/English at some point, though I can’t find any more comment on the etymology of this.

The term custard has a wider meaning of course, ranging through various kinds of egg-thickened milk or cream concoctions, whether used for filling eclairs (as confectioner’s custard) or quiches (a savoury form). Many of these forms date back to the Middle Ages, when egg and milk mixtures were popular for filling flans and tarts – in fact the word “custard” is a corruption of crustade, an old word for a pie or pie crust (cf. French croustade). Classic French cuisine, meanwhile, has no specific word for custard, using the more general term crème instead. Maybe it was conceptually more important to the British, since they at least had a word for it.

Europeans took a wealth of custard recipes with them to the New World, though sometime in the nineteenth century the terms “custard” and “pudding” became confused in the United States, so that to this day “pudding” in American English denotes a set milk pudding. This new meaning of the word came back over the Atlantic and settled in German as Pudding. Cue confusion and strange looks when, as a Brit, you start talking to people in this country about Christmas pudding, steak and kidney pudding or black pudding, or even if you simply ask “What’s for pudding?”…


Filed under Food, History, Intercultural & interlinguistic

4 responses to “Crème caramel

  1. To add to the confusion, that what is known as a Pudding in German actually is a “Flammeri” – at least in the strict cooking lingo. Which derives from the English word “flummery”.

  2. Mmmmm. I’ve just discovered Pannacotta and am now addicted. What have I been missing?

  3. squonky

    You might not win prizes for food photography with that shot, but it sounds like your menu went down well.

    That is one of my favourite puddings, as is crème brûlée, I normally prefer the texture of the latter. Somehow “thicker” and more creamy.

    The varying use of the word “pudding” from country to country is something which has given me amusement. Describing black pudding to American friends and relatives caused an interesting mixture of confusion and horror. They don’t really go for offal, let alone pig blood. I have to say that I suffered a similar horrified reaction when looking at the ingredients list of a carton of store bought “pudding” over there. A veritable chemical soup.

    Really enjoying the etymology on offer in your blog. Keep it up :^)

  4. 2010photography

    Your image made me want to savour the delights of the pudding. Your posts are interesting and thought provoking. I look forward to more.

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