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Sunday 21 Jul 2002

This week we are reviewing that timeless classic the Penguin. If you think that you can't remember a time before Penguins you'd be right, unless your older than seventy, or you have lousy memory. The Penguin is the flag ship chocolate covered biscuit bar of the mighty McVities, and has been a yardstick by which other chocolate covered biscuits bars are measured, and they've been making them since 1932. These days Penguins come wrapped in their own little sachet, but I think I prefered them in the composite foil grease proof paper wrap of yesteryear.

Now there are many people to whom it has occured that the Penguin is nothing more than a chocolate covered bourbon biscuit. Its not. The texture of the biscuits is altogether different being crisper and less dense. The chocolate cream filling is also much paler. The covering of milk chocolate is quite thin and yet registers as the main ingredient in the Penguin. In the Pengiun we see once again a biscuit that must be enjoyed as a whole, as analysis of its components does not convey its charm.

In recent years we've seen Mint and Orange Penguins, and Penguin cake bars. The flavoured ones aren't too bad, but the cake thing is all a bit degrading really. Now McVities are making some kind of dipping version of the Penguin called a flipper or something. Leave it out McVities, this is like getting your Granny up to dance to the latest choons at a wedding disco, its no way to treat your elders.

According to McVite's web site the factory in Manchester that builds Penguins makes over 40,000 of them a MINUTE!! Now I've done some quick calculations and that's enough Penguins laid end to end in a year to go to the moon and back 4 times. So there we are, that's space exploration taken care of, we just need use earth based biscuit propulsion units.

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McVities Digestive Cream

Sunday 14 Jul 2002

We have a friend whose Mum has a bit a special phobia. She is upset by things that don't have the correct scale, King Size Mars bars, or fun size ones deeply trouble her. So I'm betting she would run screaming from this weeks biscuit, the McVities Digestive Cream.

As noted by guest biscuit reviewer Phil, in his investigation into the weird Hill's Digestive Cream, McVities back room boffins have been working away on their own version of the digestive cream. How did they manage this feat of biscuit engineering. Well they had to dramatically scale down the size of the biscuit. Imagine if they had used full size digestives, the resulting biscuit would have been too large for those more modest biscuit eaters, and that's exactly the territory that the vanilla cream filling is pulling the whole project into.

With a diameter of a mere 45mm the McVities Digestive cream ships in a disturbingly narrow packet, made troubling to our good friends Mum, by being decked out in the standard red and yellow of its bigger and better known sibling. Holding the pack you are forced to keep adjusting its position in a futile attempt to reconcile its odd dimensions.

So Nicey what does it actually taste like? Well not too great actually. The vanilla against the biscuit puts me more in mind of food for pet rodents than it does of sublime biscuit opulence. I think there is potential here, surely the secret must lie in the cream recipe, as the Digestive can not be faulted.

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Tunnocks Tea Cake

Sunday 30 Jun 2002

When in Ireland the other week we visited the closest point to Scotland, and as we gazed out across the Irish sea towards the Mull of Kintyre, my mind turned to thoughts of Scottish fayre, of deep fried mini pizzas and Mars bars and of Tea Cakes.

The overlord of the Tea Cakes is the Tunnocks which registers a Victoria Plum, possibly a Clemetine on the fruit and nut scale of measurement, intimidating its Walnut sized competitors. While on the subject of competitors, they all seem to need intricate plastic trays to protect their puny chocolate shells, whilst the Tunnocks makes do with a bit of tin foil and cardboard box.

What really sets the Tunnocks apart from its Tea Cake brethren is its marshmallow which is based on egg white rather than gelatine. This gives it a consistency somewhere between shaving foam and bath sealant. The process that actually places this stuff on the biscuit base and then covers it in chocolate must be a miracle of biscuit engineering given the super sticky nature of the mallow. The fact that the Tea Cakes exist means that there isn't a machine somewhere Scotland buried under a mountain of proto-tea cake gunge.

Finally we must note that the Tunnocks contains no jam, which again I assume is a level of extra gunge that would push their manufacture into the realms of fantasy.

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