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Strictly speaking | Concretes

Seen in large letters on café signs at Dubai airport, alongside burgers etc… The mind boggles as to what jaw-breaking kind of food this might be – maybe one of Heston Blumenthal’s latest inventions! Neither the Oxford Dictionary online nor Merriam‑Webster could help, and the Urban Dictionary had no convergent answers. In fact it refers to a frozen custard dessert, different from regular ice-cream in that egg is a key ingredient. This makes for the special texture of the edible concrete: “You can stick a spoon in it and turn it upside down and the spoon stays stuck in the custard”, according to one of the Urban Dictionary contributors. The gastronomic use of the word concrete(s) may have originated in early 20th century American English in the Midwest, where ice-harvesting and the availability of fresh cream supported both ice-cream and frozen custard making. This would explain why it featured at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Calling it concrete then might not have seemed at odds with its use for the standard city building material. And in the post-modern era there’s probably no risk of mistaking the concrete you eat from the one that is the proverbial reference for hardness (hard as…) – as long as it’s plural (concretes) and coupled with burgers as a quick, unhealthy meal.

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