Custard is another word with a loose interpretation in certain areas of Pennsylvania. In the coal regions, where I grew up, custard is a sort of pudding. And it makes great pies: coconut custard, raspberry custard, blueberry custard. Mmm-mmm. Tasty.
But in the Dutchified farm areas of Central Pennsylvania, and in parts of Western Pennsylvania, too, I’m told, people look forward to battling summer’s heat with a tasty treat from the “custard shop.”
Now, the first time someone asks if you want to go to the custard shop on a sweltering, sweaty summer day, and you’re picturing a little dish of egg custard with some cinnamon sprinkled on top, or a slice of freshly-baked coconut custard pie, you might think they’re fehunst! You might even say, “No, thanks. What I’d really like is some cold, refreshing ice cream.” Well, the joke’s on you, because a custard shop is an ice cream shop! To people in Pennsylvania, places like Dairy Queen make great-tasting custard — chocolate, vanilla and twist.
The best advice I can give to visitors inside Pennsylvania: Just go with it. If your hosts offer you mangoes with your hot sausage, trust them. You’ll love it. If they suggest a custard on a hot summer evening, you’ll be glad for it. But if they offer you a mango custard, I’d think twice about that one. Green pepper ice cream? They’ve got to be fehunst!