With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, what are you planning for your special one?
A card at least I hope, but maybe a bunch of flowers, a bottle of champagne or maybe a romantic dinner for two?
But how would your partner react if you gave them a bowl of custard? Yes, custard that sweet yellow dessert sauce we pour over crumble and pies.
Well if you were Mrs. Elizabeth Bird, you would be delighted.
Now the exact date in 1837 on which Alfred Bird presented a bowl of custard to his wife is not known, but whenever it was it clearly won him some serious brownie points.
Elizabeth had persistent digestive problems and suffered severe reactions, to eggs, and yeast-based products. Now this was bad enough but she was a lover of custard and even knowing the consequences simply couldn’t resist the stuff.
Alfred Bird had qualified as a Fellow of the Chemists Society and set up a shop in Birmingham’s Bell Street selling household medicines and toiletries. Business was good, but Alfred wasn’t satisfied and every night, after the shop closed, he indulged his passion for experimental chemistry. The task he set himself was to find a way to help his wife enjoy the foods she loved.
He began a quest for an egg-free custard and finally, after many late nights, he developed a recipe for a new custard powder based on cornflour.
His wife was delighted but soon too were some friends of the Birds’, when they were introduced to it by mistake.
The story goes that it was “accidentally” fed to some of Elizabeth and Alfred’s guests at a dinner party. Seeing their re-action Alfred realised that perhaps there was more to his invention that just a happier wife.
Bird’s Powdered Custard was born, and lives on successful to this day.
A few years later Alfred proved what an ideal husband he was again, when in 1843 came up with a yeast substitute which at first was called ‘’Bird’s Fermenting Powder’’ but was quickly renamed “Baking Powder’’. It not only helped people like Elizabeth who had a yeast allergy but was used widely to help people bake lighter bread, cakes and pastries.
It too was, and is still a success.