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||Hello Nicey & Wifey,|
I've been enjoying your book greatly and it prompted me to look up your site, which is also spiffing.
However, I must take exception to your description of the latest McVitie's advertising campaign as being entirely about people flicking crumbs at each other.
As one of the chaps responsible for devising this modern masterpiece, and going all the way to New Zealand to shoot it, may I point out that crumbs in question are also poured, retrieved, shaken and hoovered up. Other unused scenes showed them being dunked and banged out of the crevices of a tin.
Shortly, you will even be able to see them being sucked up a straw, in an ad about a new Mcvitie's product so secret that I would be killed if I told you about it.
Anyway, to my point. I probably don't eat quite as wide a variety of biscuits as you expert consumers, but as part of my job I do get to go to lots of biscuit factories and see them at work. Whilst watching digestives splash through their chocolate bath, or observing a ginger nut rise and fall in the oven, or seeing how small the tiny squidge of batter is that becomes the basis of a Jaffa Cake is all jolly thrilling, by far the most impressive to watch in production is............................the Butter Puff.
What do you say to that, eh?
|Nicey replies: Thank you for running the gauntlet of certain death, to bring us that message, however, mostly we say, that we suspect that going all the way to New Zealand to shoot lots of interiors seems like a bit of an excuse for a jolly. We hadn't noticed any obvious parallels with the portrayal of biscuit crumb premises and the scenery in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, although I'm sure we'll all look a bit harder next time it's on. Secondly I was really referring to the advert where the two blokes are just flicking crumbs at each other, rather than the adverts that came after that one which I hadn't seen because they were in the future.
Thirdly and getting to your point I'm not keen on butter puffs, although I have a good deal of respect for them and their whole 'puff' posse including the Lemon Puff. Presumably now that Jacobs is part of of United Biscuits there can be a public burying of the hatchet between the Cornish Wafer and the Butter Puff which surely is long overdue.
||Dear Nicey, Wifey and younger member of staff,|
Loving the toast rack icon - bordering on the inspired! The Thermos flask is also a small triumph, but my strongest memories of flask based activities as a child do not include tea. The beaches here in Wales are indeed fantastic, but can be a little nippy even during the summer months. So Mam would often pack a thermos full of hot baked beans along with the sandwiches and whatnots when an outing to the seaside was in the offing - does this go against the Thermos ethos? Also, to return to the toast rack, will this be utilised for other toasted baked goods? I am thinking crumpets, tea cakes and slightly out of season Hot Cross Buns?
Sterling work as ever,
|Nicey replies: Firstly, yes I fully expect the new Toast icon to crop up whenever the broader issue of toasting raises its head. This is certainly in keeping with the general bandying around of icons such as the butter icon.
Secondly flasks of hot baked beans sounds utterly fantastic, I would be thinking of having a tee-shirt made that proclaims that you were raised in this way. Hoorah for your Mum and her bean flasks. I would of course still require a flask of tea to wash them down with.
Thirdly at Easter we were sat on a couple of Welsh beaches with our flask. The first attempt was a major disaster, having set out with the younger members of staff to dam up the stream that runs through Merthyr Mawr sand dunes. The stream had dried up, so we struck out for the coast, and anybody who knows the locale will know that this is quite a hike. No matter for I had provisions, or so I thought. On reaching the beach, we had forgotten the Fig Rolls, the Jaffa Cakes and the milk. I tried to console myself with a cup of black tea, which Wifey and Nanny Nicey declined. No, despite the claims of those who like it, black tea is fairly foul (they actually know this but insist that we should all drink it), especially when you really want a proper cup. I tried to amuse myself by attempting to construct a working cigarette lighter from the dozen or so I collected from the shore line, not that I smoke, I just thought it would be a useful survival trick in a sort of useless alternate Ray Mears way.
According to a report on the radio just now, the Pope is well on the way to recovery from his latest operation, having eaten breakfast this morning. He apparently had a latte (which I know is anathema to fans of your website) and some biscuits. But the reporter didn't say what kind. What kind of biscuits would the Pope eat? The obvious answer seems to be some kind of biscotti, since he's in Italy. But is there a biscuit that's known to be a bit more holy, or pure? Would he eat Rich Tea because their simplicity and unpretentiousness matches the values his faith professes? Or is he more likely to be a Jammy Dodger man, because the reward for the hard slog of eating your way through the outer biscuit is the jam in the middle (metaphor for struggling through life before reaching heaven)? Might he favour a Penguin, as an ironic reference to nuns?
I'd be interested to hear what the biscuit experts think.
|Nicey replies: Well as the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church, and given the amount of suffering he has already endured, I hope at the very least they offered him some decent biscuits. Being an old Polish fella who had a tube inserted in his neck last night, then I'm thinking he would probably give the biscotti a miss and go for something a bit easier on the throat. I would have thought something light, devoid of tricky to swallow bits an bobs and not too sweet, I think a nice shortbread finger or two.
Maybe in a day or two if his physicians think he's up for it, he might want to see off a whole pack of Jaffa Cakes, which are a popular tea sort of thing in Poland.
As I'm sure you are aware the cake/biscuit controversy raised its head on the BBC TV program QI last week. Their definition being biscuits get soft as they get old, cakes get hard as they get old. This was apparently used by McVities in a test case to prevent them having to pay tax on Jaffa cakes! This cannot be a complete definition as this allows in such interlopers as crisps and quavers which are definitely not biscuits.
A workplace challenge has forced me to come up with my own definition. I am still working on it but it has to do with being able to "break" a biscuit i.e. there must be a fracture line when applying a breaking strain. The definition should also include compound biscuits i.e. biscuits that are joined by some other non biscuit glue as in custard creams and bourbons. I am having problems with excluding such non biscuits as toffee which under the right circumstances will break in this way but is obviously not a biscuit, this also hovers dangerously close to brandy snaps which I suspect many will consider to be biscuits. Perhaps all biscuits must contain a certain proportion of cereal as in flour, oatmeal or similar. This takes us down the slippery slope of the poppadum/rice cracker debate. Are they biscuits? A colleague say no because they are eaten with a meal (this is spurious as this would debar cream crackers and water biscuits which are definitely biscuits).
Other suggestions include a sweet/savoury split, excluding all savouries. I cannot agree with this as biscuits designed to go with cheese are definitely biscuits but are savoury.
There is always the dunking argument. All biscuits must be "dunkable", this would exclude the aforementioned poppadoms but might let in the dough stick or doughnut. Dough sticks possibly could be considered to be biscuits, they certainly have the right texture. If disallowed because of size then what about mini dough sticks?
Basically Helpppppppppppp! Can you please provide me with an "official" definition of a biscuit as the controversy rages on in my place of work.
|Nicey replies: Colin don't get yourself in a state over this.
Yes we saw the bit on QI, which was fairly well informed, but did slightly play down the technicalities. The soft/hard argument has many exceptions, which is why the tribunal hearing for the Jaffa cake wasn't a simple open and shut case.
If it was that simple I wouldn't have been able to write a book on it. The really big Venn diagram in the book goes some way towards helping at least bring some form of order. However, there simply are no hard and fast rules rather a whole series of continuums upon which things find themselves, and a truckload of annoying exceptions. I find the Venn diagram is the best way of representing these issues, and you can place things on it using all the sensible rules you have devised. The beauty of the Venn diagram is allows things to more than one thing simultaneously depending on how you look at it, which often solves the problems. For instance the Doughnut sits in the union of cakes and bread all be it closer to the cakes. All the crackers you mention sit simply in crackers, and those Hovis digestives sit in the union of biscuits and crackers, again albeit closer to biscuits than crackers. Don't worry about Poppadums.
The fact is that all of these things exist and what's often more important the names we give them is their relationships with other baked goods. Through this we learn that its how things are made and how they are eaten is often the key to working out where they belong rather than their physical properties.
||Hello, Nicey and Wifey -- I thoroughly enjoy NCOTAASD....|
It seems as though you are convinced that all Americans are backward and uncivilised -- and most of them are.
BUT...I own a Bodum kettle that lives on top of my filing cabinet at work, just big enough to boil two mugs of water (the water out of the coffee machine downstairs isn't hot enough to *bathe* in, much less brew a nice cup of tea for a sit down). It has worked faithfully for nearly three years now. With it, I produce lovely mugs of Twinings Assam tea (dark and malty, according to the box) and my beloved PG Tips that I purchase in massive boxes whilst in England on business. I also have a tin of lovely (if poncey) jasmine tea and (equally poncey) fragrant lotus tea sent to me by a good friend after their holiday to Asia. (My home kettle is a large Sunbeam model -- the type with the stationary base, floating red ball, and automatic shutoff -- they DO sell proper kettles here, they're just hard to find.)
My biscuit supply is usually crammed into my suitcase upon my return -- HobNobs (plain and plain chocolate), Jaffa Cakes (small boxes because an open packet is an empty packet) and Crunchie bars (yes, I know, they're candy, but I'm allowed, aren't I?)
My local imported-foods emporium usually carries a small but well-formed assortment of biscuits, as well -- HobNobs, in all of their various varieties, digestives, and the occasional bonus packet of Penguins. (my husband doesn't know of my expensive habit -- the price is typically 400% higher than Sainsbury's...) I haven't managed to find any Jaffas, but I can usually find Pim's, which are not the same, but make an acceptable substitute.
I hope you see this as some sort of hope....
|Nicey replies: Sunshine,
Well that's very nice to hear that yet another of our American cousins has a big stash of PG tips and Hobnobs. If you really want to be a true Anglophile however you'll need to change your name to 'outbreaks of persistent drizzle'.