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|Hi there Nicey,|
I love the site and I love the book, too.
Biscuits remain a real constant in life. They say that “Nothing is certain but death and taxes”. I amended that to include the size of Bourbons. I took great reassurance that, the world over, bourbons are the same. People may come in different shapes, sizes, colours; but wherever one happens to find oneself, one can be assured that a Bourbon is a Bourbon. Believe me, I know these things: been a lot of places, ate a lot of biscuits.
Not so, yesterday. I was in Lewes at a conference, and at tea-break eagerly made my way to the catering table, where I knew the biscuits would be waiting. I was very pleased to see bourbons and custard creams (the “Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder” of the biscuit world) side by side on the plate. These two are my perennial favourites, and with them I have toasted the good times; coasted through the mediocre times; and taken refuge during the bad.
However, I was reduced to a quivering wreck when I immediately noticed something wrong with the bourbon. It was a maverick; a loose cannon. Not the regulation 10 hole, 61 x 30mm specification; this one had 8 holes and was a different size and shape. If I was forced to guess the size would say it was in the region of 45 x 40mm – in other words, shorter and fatter. A lightning-speed inspection of its colleagues confirmed that they were all like that
I am not a “biscuit nazi”: on the contrary I consider myself to be a very tolerant, patient and inclusive individual (pink wafers aside). However some things are clearly necessary in order for reality as we know it to continue. The size and shape of bourbons is one of these things.
Can you imagine the effect it had on me? I was left questioning the nature of the universe itself. This sent me into an existential crisis and a state of confusion and near panic.
I took this up with the catering staff, and asked them how this abomination could be allowed. They – and my colleagues – all advised me to “get out more”. Clearly their priorities are different to mine. How, and why, could I get out more? How do I know the sky isn’t going to fall down? Gravity might stop. The world might explode. Who knows? Change the shape of the Bourbon and change the world.
I took some comfort in knowing that Lewes now has its own currency. Maybe these people want to have their own type of bourbon too.
I also took some comfort in your website, and in particular David Harman’s appraisal of the situation in the feedback on your bourbon review. It is good to know that there are like-minded individuals out there. Maybe we could form some sort of silent minority?
|Nicey replies: Greg,
Sorry to hear of your run in with the dud non-standard Bourbons. My last run-in with said dodgy biscuits was at a theatrical event entitled 'three men and a bourbon', which Wifey and I travelled down to London to see. The cast passed round a packet of Happy Shopper Bourbons hurriedly purchased some thirty minutes earlier, prior to their performance. This of course created an awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere amongst the modest audience, (well I thought so) and personally lasted till at least Letchworth Garden City on the train home.
Wagon Wheel Review
I am writing to ask if you could please make wagon wheels suitable for vegetarians and with no gelatine as i love it and am unable to purchase them now because they contain gelatine.
So could you please make them suitable for vegetarians.
Yours Sincerely T. Maryam.
P.s I look forward to your reply.
|Nicey replies: Hello T. Maryam,
I'm flattered that you think that I, a mere bloke with a website, could hold sway over the contents of the legendary Wagon Wheel. I share your enthusiasm for it too, however, it is not within my limited powers to grant you your wish, nor I suspect Burton's who actually make them. The gelatine based mallow of the Wagon Wheel which has already in recent years undergone significant revisions to both its biscuits and coating is the last bastion of retro biscuit engineering left in the product. To fiddle with this bit because of your dietary choices would be the straw that broke the camels back. So I'm afraid you will have forgo them along with, strawberry jelly, trifles, fruit fools, marshmallows, chocolate teacakes and pigs trotters.
||Does anyone else out there suspect that the credit crunch is due to too much coffee drinking? If the banks were to outlaw coffee machines and make everyone sit down with a nice pot of Darjeeling, which has to be brewed for 3-4 minutes under a charmingly knitted cosy, preferably with pom-poms, then surely the World of Commerce would be a little less jumpy.|
|Nicey replies: Your subject matter may be topical but more importantly it lets me use the tea-cozy icon. |
||My Dear Mr. Nicey,|
In response to NickQ’s complaint about tea/biscuit choices in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, let me make a few suggestions:
You can always get a cup of tea with piping hot water at McDonalds. The tea is their house-brand which tastes like Lipton yellow label and they’ll give you artificial creamer in a little tub, but it will be really really hot. (You can buy a carton of milk if you really need it). McDonalds uses superheated water for their coffee which was the subject of a lawsuit: a woman suffered severe burns when she spilled her cup on herself while driving. (The interaction between eating, automotive travel, and litigation is very American). As for the biscuit (a.k.a cookie), any supermarket will have several kinds of Italian cookies by a company called Stella D’Oro (originally located in the Bronx, New York, but they’re now owned by Nabisco so there’s national distribution) – the best are the Lady Stella assortment. Buy a box and you’ll agree with Harold Macmillian – you never had it so good. They also have a chocolate center cookie which used to be made with non-dairy chocolate so that orthodox Jews could eat it as a dessert after eating meat. (The rules of kashrut forbid mixing dairy and meat products within a set interval). They’re as good or better than anything on offer in the U.K. except for McVities’ Milk Chocolate digestives (hallowed by thy name).
|Nicey replies: Thanks David,
The genuine hot water from McDonalds is a very good tip indeed.
Nabisco Nutter Butter Review
I absolutely agree, Special Biscuit Correspondent Miura’s sterling research work in The Orient is deserving of her own icon. And the animation is quite splendid.
Now to matters of a more pressing nature. I’m fortunate enough to be off to the US on a two week business trip on Saturday. After all this time I don’t think you’ve come up with an icon for the US yet, which suggests there’s nothing to be had of any merit there, or perhaps your book sadly hasn’t crossed The Pond yet? They are a charming and hospitable people but they really don’t get the piping hot tea and crunchy biscuits thing do they? I suspect it may be down to their puritan heritage whereby a cuppa and chocolate digestive was historically probably considered somewhat indulgent.
I know the tea will probably be Lipton’s Yellow Label, prepared with water barely exceeding body temperature. I know if I ask for biscuits I’m likely to get some sort of gravy-coated hardened dumpling and I’ve suffered Oreos once too often to know not to go there again. I’m really not fond the soft and chewy cookies which to my palate, always taste rather underbaked.
So, I must throw myself upon the mercy of you and your international and esteemed readership. Can anyone perhaps suggest what I might seek out in the cookie aisle of the local Piggly Wiggly. Are there perhaps any local biscuit-like delicacies to be procured in Florida and Colorado where I will be spending my time? I’m open to the idea of novelty biscuits if necessary; I guess in Florida they might be ‘gator shaped and in Colorado, well, I really don’t know….beetles perhaps? And please, nothing that contains Hershey’s chocolate.
As ever, best wishes to you and the YMOS.
|Nicey replies: Hello Nick,
Good to hear from you again. By now you will be winging your way to the land of 'not yet achieving and icon'. We often get asked this question by forward thinking travellers such as yourself and so far the biscuit which I found the most plausible is the Graham Cracker. Its very name would be enough to keep most Brits at bay thinking its some kind of aspiring cheese board wanna-be. It is, however, a quite reasonable sweet biscuit and has little creases embedded in it which aid its breaking apart into smaller sections. For this reason alone it punches above its weight, making it one of the must see biscuits for the inquiring biscuit tourist.
Strawberry Newtons are notable in as much as there really isn't anything like them in the UK, so its worth just trying them to say you have. Likewise another Nabisco biscuit the NutterButter which having peanut butter in them isn't going to make on our shelves anytime soon, although I did actually find them appealing to my inner child like some sort of new sweet shop treat.
To be honest it is as you suspect a much more serious problem getting any sort of sensible cuppa, so I hope you have your teabags packed and access to boiling water over the next fortnight.