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My wife Rachel and I are Londoners in exile in Tignes, a ski resort high in the French Alps. The French Alps, in common with much of mainland Europe, is not the kind of place where one can easily get one's sticky paws on one's favourite mass produced biscuits. A decent cuppa is pretty much out of the question as well, and we've taken to importing tea bags rather than put up with Lipton day in, day out.
The biscuit issue was more of a problem, but my wife's entrepreneurial streak encouraged her to bake brownies. This in turn led to a 'Tignes brownie off', resulting in said brownies becoming available in a local cafe, Le Lavachet Lounge. Walnut brownies are a favourite, but 'orange and white chocolate chip' have been spotted, as have 'cherry and kirsch', and the flavour changes every week.
I occasionally report on the brownies in my blog and a recent post was entitled "Nice cup of tea and a sit down" after your good selves. A reader posted a link to your site and commented that if Rachel's brownies were ever to get a mention there, she'd know they'd truly hit the big time.
It's my wife's birthday in April (the 12th) and I'm sure it would make her day for her baking to be recognised in such an internationally renowned place.
Obviously I'm biased, but I'm sure I could find vaguely independent verification of aforementioned brownie quality.
Great site - keep up the good work.
|Nicey replies: As I too have endured many a cup of Liptons tea a mere mountain away from you I have some empathy for your wretched plight. Mind you living in the middle of Espace Killy and looking like the season could make it through to the start of May this year tempers my anguish somewhat.
Still well done to Mrs Cowbells for her resourceful baking. I have to say I do like the whole high altitude baking thing in ski resorts even if much of it is enforced on chalet maids.
|Dear Mr Nicey (and Mrs Wifey)|
I remember that in the early 70's that you could get 5-fingered KitKats from some chocolate machines. Machines weren't as sophisticated then, so everything was the same price. I guess a 4-finger KitKat wouldn't have been good enough value-for-money, and wouldn't have sold.
Keep up the good work,
|Hi there Nicey|
I've just returned from a cellar stocking and retail therapy trip to the Auchan hypermarket in Calais, and was looking forward to trying the Bastogne biscuits you reviewed a few weeks ago. But could I find them? Non, I could not.
I confess that I spent a good cinq minutes perusing le section des biscuits, (as a former McVities' biscuit salesman - albeit nearly 40 years ago - it's a habit that's hard to break), and it struck me that it could really do with a good "merchandising". This, as I was informed on my first day with McVits, was "the bringing together of psychology and salesmanship". The idea was that if the shelves were arranged with each of the manufacturers' products grouped together, and shelf space allocated in line with market share, the average British housewife (who in those days was 5 feet 3 and a half inches tall and spent 2s 9d (14p) a week on biscuits), would a) be able to find what she was looking for more easily, and b) buy more of the wares of McVitie and Price than she consciously intended. I was never convinced by this, but Marketing said it worked, and their word was law.
So, despite being a foodie's paradise, nul points to Auchan in that department, mais je also have to dire that le packaging of French biscuits en general est tres uninspiring. So all I ended up buying (apart from cheeses, salamis, jams, monster lettuces, etc etc), were the usual Spekuloos, some Bon Maman Galettes, and the quintessential Gateau do Bretagne, which admits to a 25 per cent butter content, and a heart attack in every mouthful. In fact a lot of the French biscuits had "beurre" in their noms, so les French sont obviously pas so worried about le chloresterol as nous Brits. But then butter is quelque chose they do seriously better than us.
After denying Gordon Brown the excise duty on les vins et bierres, we decided to faire le pique nique. (A very nice place for one, or a sit down in your car, is cap Gris Nez, just past Sangatte. On a clear day you get a magnificent view of the white cliffs of Dover). Whilst munching my baguette I got to thinking that the biscuit sections in our local Asda and Tesco also leave something to be desired - perhaps biscuit shelves are not so attractive because there are fewer manufacturers these days. What do you think?
Mind you, Waitrose does do the merchandising thing better, and they also stock Mc Vities' Lyle's Syrup Creams and Fruit Shortcake. Shame the aisle in our local one isn't too wide, making browsing difficult.
Does this sound like a moan? It's not meant to.
|Nicey replies: Ahh I'm only familiar with the Auchan biscuit aisle at Boulogne. As soon as the tyres touch down in Calais I am filled with the urge to leave the place and head south, even if it is only for twenty minutes. We too like a spot of the old pic-nic when in France. There is also good sport to be had worrying the French by eating at times that are out of sync with them due to the hour time difference and being through a casual British approach to lunch time based on feeling peckish rather than some national time signal. Often as we have sat on a camp chair in some French lay by at quarter past two in the afternoon chewing on a bit of sauciseson whilst disembowelling an over ripe melon with spoon, we have received shocked glances from the occupants of a passing Renault or Citreon.
Once when camping in deepest darkest France we began about lunch at almost 1:30 and finished at around 3:00. One of the other French campers who we had gotten to know quite well came across to see if we were all right. He had been fretting that one of us had been taken ill, or that we had been involved in a road accident. He had to employ some very seldom used French expression that may have been "Vous mangez en decolarge?" or something like that. Despite two of our party being fluent French speakers and both having lived in France for at least a year each neither had heard this, which they best translated as "eating out of time". We were all quietly pleased with ourselves for creating such an air of tension just through shear applied Britishness.
Tunnocks Wafer Review
Having just reintroduced the Tunnocks caramel wafer to the office, one of my colleagues forwarded your link to me within seconds and an afternoon of fond biscuit-related nostalgia ensued. For me, Tunnocks have to be the epitome of biscuit survival - 50 years on, still in the original(ish) wrapping and not, contrary to popular belief, the sole territory of old ladies in bonnets and hose. Being a young 37 year old, I've not been around long enough to remember the when Tunnocks were new and have only discovered them in the last 10 years or so. I like to imagine that they represent the best of the war years and I will always thank my Grandfather for fighting to keep the country free so that young-uns like me can enjoy biscuits like these...
|Nicey replies: Well done on the Tunnocks reintroduction this is the sort of free thinking initiative that more workplaces could do with.
|Please help me with a debate going on in my local for a couple of weeks now.|
My friend insists that Kit Kats used to come in a 5 finger variety but I can only remember a 4 finger biscuit.
Who is right ??
|Nicey replies: I don't recall them ever being bigger than four fingers.|