Sunday, January 8, 2012

Translation Please

The other day Alexandra decided to make some custard. This seemed like an especially good idea since I was planning to make a blackberry crisp for dessert that night, and a dollop of custard on top would go nicely. Now it's time for a confession from our "make it from scratch" family. After discovering Bird's Custard Powder a few years ago when making Nanaimo Bars there has been no looking back. Our custard now comes from a tin. The only redeeming feature of this culinary lapse is that we rarely have custard.

A few minutes into the process she called out that she couldn't find the container. I reminded her the container looked a bit different than usual. This was because I had purchased my latest tin at the British shop in nearby Sorrento (that would be the one in BC, not Italy). For some reason the British container is shorter and plumper than the Canadian one.  (Having just been in Britain a few months ago I can verify the same can not be said about the British people themselves). I went and found the custard container on the shelf and returned to work.




A few minutes later I was interrupted again. "Mom, I need help with the directions. They're in British."

I had no idea what that meant, so headed back into the kitchen. I looked at the back of the tin.




I laughed when I read the instructions. She had guessed that hob meant stove and basin meant bowl, but what was really throwing her was the term pint. It is still common to see recipe measurements calling for cups, teaspoons and tablespoons in Canada, in spite of the fact the metric system has been in place since the mid-seventies. However, the term pint seems to have gone out of vogue around the same time as disco. Which means Alexandra had no clue what it meant. And why would she go Google it when she had me to interrupt? As a side note I would like to point out that only three nations still rely strictly on the English System of measurement: the USA, Myanmar and Liberia. There are many things I could say about that, but  I am choosing to show restraint.

On a totally unrelated note, here is my first finished knitted item of 2012. It is the famous Noro Striped Scarf. These are the knitted equivalent of snowflakes. There are currently 10,431 of these scarves posted on Ravelry and no two are the same. Noro, a Japanese yarn, is the cilantro of the knitting world. People either hate it or love it, and I definitely fall into the latter category. This is my third Noro scarf, and this time instead of using two different colours of Noro throughout, I alternated Noro Silk Garden with a skein of solid blue yarn. I'm pleased with the result.




One more thing. If you've never eaten a Nanaimo bar, I suggest you go right out and buy a tin of Bird's Custard Powder and make a batch today. You won't be sorry!

21 comments:

  1. On the metric/imperial split, I can say this: when I was in 3rd or so grade (in the USA), there was a math unit on metric and the teacher actually told us not to worry too much about learning it because we would never need to use metric in our lives. Now - aside from just generally wanting to be as conscious as I can about the world around me - I knit and cook and both of things can be greatly helped by knowledge of the metric system, so I end up Googling a lot to understand the relationship between the systems. I'm 31 and still trying to understand what is basic math to most of the world because of one narrow-minded 3rd grade teacher.

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  2. that's funny! i remember baking in Ireland...that was a challenge! The oven was in Celsius, and the recipe called for bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)...that threw me for a loop :)
    ps. I love Noro too!

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  3. @bigmonkeypie - That is awful about your 3rd grade teacher. My guess is she was not the only teacher to neglect teaching the metric system. Half of my brain runs on metric and the other half on the English system, which fits with having lived in both the US and Canada. :-)

    @Jill - I would have trouble thinking about oven temps in Celsius, but have no problem thinking in Celsius for the outdoor temps. That is funny about the baking soda! Did you cook on a hob in Ireland? :-)

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  4. Actually, the U.S. bases its measurements on the Imperial system -- it doesn't follow them exactly, which complicates matters. The American pint is different from the British pint measurement. If you're doing fl. oz., an American pint measures 16-oz. whereas a British pint measures a little over 19-oz. This I've learned the hard way. ;-)

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  5. @Diana - Thank you for pointing that out! I changed my wording in the post to say the English system of measurement, but I am not sure that is 100% accurate either. Is there a more accurate term? There seem to be several different terms used. And the Imperial gallon/pint vs. American gallon/pint thing definitely adds to the confusion. I always have to remember that when Canadians refer to gallons they are talking about the Imperial ones, which harken back to their pre-metric days. My brain thinks in terms of US gallons, which harken back to my pre-Canadian days. (By the time I moved to Canada they had abandoned the Imperial system and gone metric.) All of this is, of course, an advertisement for why going metric makes so much sense! :-)

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  6. Love the Noro yarn, too! I have knit socks with it, but it did take a while to get used to, if I do recall correctly. Love the colors!
    As for custard, I always keep a tin of that in my cupboard for making Dutch pancakes. My recipe calls for a couple of T of it.
    So, what was your crust like for the Nanaimo bars; I'm guessing you didn't use whole wheat flour.

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  7. @Aneta - Rebekah made the Nanaimo bars this year. She made them gluten-free and they were great. I will have to ask her what she used instead of wheat flour.

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  8. Bird's eye custard is older than the hills and much more delicious.
    Your model is very beautiful as is the scarf!
    The only person I've ever known who cooked in metric was a high school home ec teacher. LOL
    Linda

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  9. The scarf is gorgeous! I really must get myself some Noro to knit up!

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  10. @Linda - Imagine this. I had never heard of Bird's custard until I moved to Canada! Alexandra did a nice job modelling the scarf. :-)

    @Katherine - Thanks! You definitely should give Noro a try. This scarf is a great project to try it out on.

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  11. I am of an age where I vividly remember the Metric Report with Heather Conkie on TVOntario. It was a kid's program to introduce us to the metric system.
    I too have a mishmash of imperial and metric top of mind, and I don't really know how to cook by weight like the Europeans.
    I had no clue that custard powder was used in Nanaimo bars!
    thanks for the fun post

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  12. About metric and American measurements: at work, it's all metric, all the time, and I get annoyed when buying bottles and the like and it gives me measurements in ounces. Milliliters! That's what I want!

    For everything else, it's American measurements. I lead a double life.

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  13. This is very interesting. I didn't know about noro yarn, the custard can, and the hob. Also, I didn't know British pint and American pint are different. Thank you for the info.

    1976 or so, I worked for a small Japanese trading company for a year. They imported Panasonic rice cookers. We had very little complaints on the products, and those complaints were related to measurements. The Japanese cup that comes with each cooker is smaller than the American cup. I myself was confused.

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  14. @Lisa - I had no idea they had these kind of metric teaching times in TV! I will have to ask my husband if they had them here in BC. I grew up in the States, so I was immersed cold turkey into the metric system when I moved north. :-)

    @Kate - Do you think the US will ever convert? I have read conflicting things about their willingness to do so. Hopefully it will happen some day and then you can stop leading your double life! :-)

    @keiko - That is interesting that your only complaints were about the cup size that came with the rice cookers! Noro yarn is quite famous among knitters, but probably not so much outside of knitting circles. It is made in Japan, and the man who has the company is an artistic genius.

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  15. I've never heard of, let alone eaten a Nanaimo bar... I wonder if I could find that custard mix here in Chicago. The hunt is on!

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  16. @Michelle - Trust me, it will be worth the hunt for the custard powder! If you can't find it at a grocery store look for a British store. They will have it for sure. Let me know what you think if you make them.

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  17. You crack me up...And I love her saying 'They are in British'. ;)

    Yeah, the USA is behind in so many ways...using the english system is just one of many. I would actually be amused to read your commentary on that one! ;)

    I've made 3 Noro striped scarves...one using a solid color. I love that one the best. Yours...very pretty!

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    1. This is exciting! I see Blogger has finally made it possible to reply to comments.

      We are tied in the Noro scarf knitting department. I am sure there will be another one at some point in my future. They are very addictive. Interesting that you liked the one you did with the solid colour the best. I love the look of this one with the solid colour, but I like the feel of the ones with all Noro. They are much softer.

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  18. Metric Conversion Act was passed by Congress in 1975. We see how well that worked. When I lived in Canada, the whole thing was in more of a transition, as a result, I only remember that 90 kilometers was 60 mph and safe to drive without fearing for a ticket! The pint story made me laugh. One day in was in a deli (in US) and asked for a half pint of something and the teenager looked at me and say they only sold things by the pound, so she could sell me a half-pound. My Irish gma always told us "A pint's a pound the world around" which is how I remember.

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    1. I had no idea the US had passed that act! I guess it can be counted as a total fail. :-)

      Funny story about the deli! I have never heard your Irish grandma's expression. I will have to use to on my daughter - the British instruction impaired one - and see if it makes her eyes cross. :-)

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  19. I thought the US adopted the metric system in the '70s. LOL! I have a metric socket set and a "standard" one--and I never seem to have the right one with me when I start a job. Without looking to be sure, I think our measuring cup shows both.

    That's a lovely scarf. My wife is enjoying hers. We've had a fairly mild winter so far, but there have been a few extremely cold days.

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