I didn’t realize until recently how fitting it would be to make custard for Valentine’s Day. Not because it’s insanely delicious (though there’s definitely that) or because you can serve it in cute little dishes (though there’s that too.) But because, to make custard properly, you really need to exhibit some of your best relationship skills.
So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are three relationship skills/lessons told through the experience of making custard. (Okay, I may have a bit of Dear Abby envy. This was way too much fun!)
Skill 1: Patience
Traditional custard is a mixture of milk and eggs, slowly thickened over a low flame. And the key word here is slow. If you get sick of waiting for it to thicken and raise the heat too high, your eggs will start to curdle, which means you’ll get chunks of cooked egg in your custard. The same thing will happen if you add the hot milk to your beaten eggs too aggressively. The trick is patience: add just a little at first; then once the egg has grown accustomed to the presence of the milk, you’ll start to drizzle in the rest. You then get to warm up the mixture – again, gradually and patiently on the stove, making sure to give it lots of love and attention (aka stirring) so nothing curdles.
Relationship Lesson:If you try to make an abrupt change without making sure your partner is on board, the relationship is likely to curdle. Best practice is to make changes and suggest improvements gradually, making sure your partner feels loved and supported (keep stirring that egg mixture!) throughout the process.
Skill 2: Trust
There is usually a point in the custard making process where I’m positive something has gone wrong. Custard sometimes takes its sweet time to thicken, and gives almost zero indication that it will thicken until it does. During those painful minutes when it looks like nothing is going to happen and I’m going to be left with a pot of liquid, remembering that I’ve been in this boat before and always come out on top is key. Otherwise, I might be tempted to self-destructively turn up the heat or just drink the liquid then and there. I have to remember that the custard has always thickened in the end – no matter how much it looks like it won’t – and trust that this time won’t be any different.
Relationship Lesson: In a relationship built on trust, you always give your partner the benefit of the doubt. There will be times when you’ll question whether or not he/she has your back. When this happens, avoid getting worked up before you have all the information, since turning up the heat too fast could trigger exactly what you’re trying to avoid. Instead, trust your partner and give him/her time to explain before losing your cool.
Skill 3: Experimentation
Maybe things do go awry in your custard-making process. The first time I made this matcha custard, it tasted great but had a drab, very unappealing color that just didn’t cut it. I normally outright refuse to put color in anything, but it occurred to me that maybe I could find a natural green food coloring that would work. I ended up finding this recipe, which suggested boiling spinach and then blending until completely smooth. I was a little bit nervous: Would it be too subtle? Too bright? Would it taste spinachy? (The recipe promised it wouldn’t, but I had my doubts.) Thankfully, I took the plunge, and it came out perfectly. No spinach remained after blending – it was completely liquid – and a couple tablespoons yielded the perfect muted green color. Oh, and there was no spinachy taste, whatsoever.
Relationship Lesson: It can be scary to try new things, especially if your relationship is already on the rocks. But sometimes breaking routine can be just what you need to lift you out of the doldrums and into the light. Don’t be afraid to give your relationship that little pop of color it was missing: you’ll be glad you did.
Now that we’ve all learned soooo much, I think we deserve some custard, no?