The history of custard is long and complicated. Ancient Roman cooks were the first to recognize the binding properties of eggs. They were experts at creating several egg-based dishes, most notably, croustades and omelets. These foods were either savory (made with cheese, meat, pepper etc.) or sweet (flavored with honey, nuts, cinnamon.) Sweet custards can be accredited to the son of a poor dolia curta (piss pot) collector for the laundry, Titus Custardus. Displeased by the toil (toilet that is…) of his life, he joined the Legio. Where he learned how exciting life on the frountieer could be, and learned many skills, one which was helpful to everyone, cooking.
It was the end of the battle of Teutoburg Forest, and Titus Custardus a foot soldier in the Legio Germanica was the sole survivor. Cheruscian tribesmen under the command of Hermann The Unifier stood in opposition to the over-civilized and decadent Romans, and annihilated three legions of crack soldiers, ensuring Germania would remain independent from Roman rule.
During the battle as axes flew, and woodcocks warbled, Hermann singled Titus Custardus out as the one who started the chant, “Boil the oats, bubble the cabbage, nothing is better dead than a savage.”
After being knocked out, Titus found himself tied to a post, a cord firmly around his neck, surrounded by the enemy. He pleaded to be let go. He could show his value if he were let to live.
Hermann ran his blade across Titus’s chest and laughed. His prisoner was as jittery as a rat in a roasting pot, and would say anything to live. There was nothing a Roman dog had of value. If he were to let him go, the nights festivities would be ruined. His intention was to torture him for pleasure and make love with his wives to the sweet sounds of his screams.
Fleet of tongue, Titus convinced Hermann, like, Andhrimnir chef of the gods, he could turn eggs into treasure.
Hermann took an interest in Titus’s words, the roman knew a little of his religion, but eggs were pickled along with the cabbage. Was it some kind of Roman trick? There was no way to turn eggs into treasure. Prove this and he would let him live. Fail and his death would be extra slow.
Titus Custardus asked for; duck eggs, sheep’s milk and honey, and Hermann’s boots.
Now, Hermann looked among his men for the face of Loki, no roman was this clever. This certainly was a trick of the Gods. He raised his ax.
Titus begged, but could only get one word out, “Yule.”
Hermann pulling his boots off vowed Odin on his steed Sleipnir would hunt him for all of the eternity like the boar.
Knowing the poisonous nature of a smelly boot from his childhood, Titus filled the boots with the mixture. He boiled them in a pot of water to make the custard.
Hermann and the Germans gathered around. It was true, the Roman had turned eggs into gold. They drank the warm custard, marveling at the sweetness. Within hours they were all stricken by illness. Titus slit their throats as they squatted. He returned to Rome a hero, earning the name Bootsy.
Naturally, we will not be using duck eggs and sheep milk for this recipe, or cooking out of our hiking boots.
1-quart heavy cream
12 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl until completely combined. Pour egg mixture into custard cups. Place cups in a baking pan and fill the pan with enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the custard cups. Cover with foil. Bake until custards is firm. Let cool overnight and top with fresh fruit before serving.