Today I went into Edinburgh to visit a family member who is in hospital - he's had a long spell in there thus far, and it is likely to continue for a while. I took the train in (which means they were running today, obviously) and, since I was a bit early for 2pm visiting, I decided to go via the Tollcross area, and visit the Wonderland model shop. It was a decent sort of day, if a bit cold, so I walked fairly briskly from Waverley Station to Tollcross. Better and better. Makes it feel a bit less self-indulgent.
I enjoyed my visit to Wonderland, of course, though I didn't buy anything while I was there. I am rather annoyed to admit that I couldn't remember what it was I'd wanted to get! This must be an age thing, I guess - regularly, when I'm painting, I suddenly realise I could do with a pot of such-and-such a colour, and since Wonderland is my only local Vallejo stockist, I add the required shade to my mental shopping list. Well, chaps, the bad news is that mental shopping lists are no longer enough - for the second such visit in the last few months I found myself staring at the Vallejo racks with no recollection of what it was I'd wanted. Yes - agreed - written lists from now on.
On the way up to the hospital (still walking) I decided to get some small offering of biscuits or similar. The relative in question would really not appreciate grapes or anything healthy, in fact he might even throw them at me. So I found myself looking in the window of what I would term a "traditional" baker's shop. There, in the front, they had a tray of individual custard tarts, such as I have neither seen nor thought about in maybe 30 years. I am very partial to all sorts of cakes and buns, I must admit, but my all-time favourites are probably a bit poncey - I'm very fond of religieuses, sachertorte - stuff like that. Custard tarts do not normally feature in my hit parade.
However, there they were. A British Standard custard tart is a pretty solid fellow - egg custard in a soggy shortcrust case - the filling is commonly topped with grated nutmeg (probably to make it taste of something), though this is less popular in Scotland. I must have eaten quite a few in my time, but none of them was great, I think, and they were all a long time ago. Maybe they are still around, and in great demand, but my perception is that cakes from the supermarket these days tend to be packets of individually wrapped brioche buns with chocolate chips, or 5-in-pack "fresh-baked" cookies with embedded white chocolate bits, made with so much cheap sugar and palm oil that your face feels hot and your breathing gets muffled. Something has shifted - the global village does not seem to offer much in the way of a proper custard tart. This must be progress.
I bought a bag of doughnuts and went off for my visit.
It was only on the train later, coming home, that I started thinking about custard tarts. Hmmm....
I never really liked them, and I'm sure I still don't, but I'm going to have to get some just to prove it. You know how these things gnaw at you?