Meringue is a co-polymer made from whipped egg whites and caster sugar, resembling hardened shaving cream in its unadulterated form. Early recipes used cream of tartar to improve the rheological properties of meringue; since then numerous doping agents, such as almonds, have been used to produce high-performance meringues.
Meringue was invented by chefs at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1966. Like Creme Brulee it was conceived as a use for the prodigious quantities of hot air generated by the Fellows. It had the additional advantage of resembling the blue-rinse haircut popularised by the pin-ups of the day.
The major drawback of meringues as dessert is that overcooking led them to become hard as obsidian - the edges of a finely-crafted meringue could be dangerously sharp.
After a professor quite literally cut his teeth on an overcooked meringue, the British MoD began research into a weaponised form to counter the rising threat of Chinese Fighting Muffins. The ultimate result of this secret program was the development of a compact hand-to-hand throwing weapon, which proved useful by the SAS in close-quarter combat (particularly in dense jungle warfare). The soldiers trained in the use of this unusual weapon therefore came to be known as Meringueotans. Later, a version was developed that would, after delivering its deadly payload, return to the thrower - this was known as a Boomeringue.
During the Cold war, larger versions fired from deck guns were developed for naval use. They were deployed extensively on light twin-hulled vessels known as catameringues, and were also used in submeringues.
End of the line?
Meringue fell from favour after the "Baked Alaska" incident, in which a military exercise involving a nuclear submeringue resulted in the city of Juneau being buried in a drift of radioactive icing sugar. Following the incident, several Alaskan Mooses confected to the Russian side, leaving Reagan's government with substantial quantities of egg on their face.
Meringue in Scotland
A young man walking through Glasgow noticed an object he didn't recognise in the window of a baker's shop. So he went in and asked the baker, "Is that a cake or a meringue?" "Ye're quite right, laddie," replied the baker, "It's a cake."