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||Good morning Nicey and Wifey and YMS|
It's not just red telephone boxes and real bottles of milk that are disappearing. I feel like I'm the only person who still does the old traditional things such as knitting, making my own Christmas cakes, puddings, mincemeat and mince pies, and making my own marmalade - which is what I've spent this morning doing. There's nothing more comforting on a cold winter's morning than filling the kitchen with citrus steam, and the satisfaction when the golden liquid is decanted into jars....and no, I'm not an Old Person, I'm actually well under 50. Am I alone or is there anyone else out there who does these things? Or am I just a sad old woman (apparently I am, according to my two late teenage offspring).
Yours stickily (from the marmalade!)
|Nicey replies: Alison,
An extremely hearty New Year Hoorah for you and your Marmalade construction. One of our younger members of staff loves Marmalade and strangely enough we live very near to a marmalade factory. In fact an old next door neighbour of ours worked there and used to bung us the odd jar now and again, which in a circular way accounts for the former.
As for home made Christmas cake, Wifey built her first one this year, using her mothers recipe. For good measure she made her write it down in long hand rejecting the perfectly good photocopy. This was part of a larger set of aims here at NCOTAASD HQ to bake more cakes.
After 2005 being year of Jam at NCOTAASD I am seriously considering 2006 as being NCOTAASD Year of Custard as there seems to be an alarming decline in proper custard.
The teenage offspring will change their tune in a few years time once you kick them out, and they've had a few years living on beans on toast and takeaways.
Love your website and sense of humour, and especially the original spelling and grammar together with the Joycian rambling off into thoughts far removed. From what? Oh yes, tea and biscuits.
My parents took us from the UK in 1959, when tea was loose and landed us in in Nova Scotia, Canada. Tea is big here, and the vast consumption of it a bit of a giggle to the rest of the country. By 1959, teabags had already displaced most loose tea, and we couldn't get a decent cuppa anywhere except at home. Then we discovered that all the tea came from Kenya and is called orange pekoe. I therefore became distraught at British colonial policy which obviously meant all the decent Indian tea was intercepted shortly after being picked and sent to the UK, leaving the rest of the world to choke down inferior brews. This, I believe, was as a distinct policy decision to make up for the Boston Tea Party, when nascent Americans invented iced tea by brewing it in the harbour.
Nevertheless, my Mum soon discovered the universal "socials", at which other Mums would gather round to discuss their favourite topic or charity. These events were usually chronicled in the local paper with a description of the gathering, and Always the following note: "Mrs. So and So poured". Some of these ladies poured so much tea that they became very good at it, and championships had evolved by about 1885. Of course, my Mum quickly discovered that the nibblies offered at these socials were called ookies -- argh On the other hand, some of these things had morphed into what is generally known as "squares". Never seen anything like them in Blighty, but they have biscuits beaten by a country mile most of the time, as they are homemade, soft, gooey, quite often have lots of choccy nuts and jam in them and make you burp after the third cuppa. The most popular cookie, oh all right biscuit was then and still is the chocolate chip, which is made in every variety from hard like bourbons to gooey bits of mostly chocolate held together with undercooked dough. Hmm... Oreos are industrial floor sweepings and sugar baked into a hard and not very nice biccy. Don't like 'em at all, but some people are addicted. Rats.
The "cookie" aisle at local supermarkets has well over 200 varieties of biscuits, but most aren't much good, although Dare Marshmallow Puffs aren't bad. These are, I should think, similar to Tunnocks tea cakes, but my brother and I used to put them in the fridge until they were cold and then you could pop the chocolate covering off them with your lips, leaving the white blob of marshmallow quivering on the biscuit, hiding the jam under it. Or you treat it like a boiled egg and smack its crown with a teaspoon, splintering the chocolate just enough to allow its removal from the clinging marshmallow with your fingers. Then while the cold chocolate gradually melted in your mouth, you could keep a close eye on the marshmallow, and decide how you were going to dispatch this particular specimen. You could lift it off the biscuit with your tongue and roll it around your mouth while it quietly dissolved, leaving the jammy biscuit behind, or in a fit of venal hunger bite right into the marshmallow and biscuit and chew it up. Delicious.
As you know Wagon Wheels were an invention of Westons, which was a Canadian outfit. Having been quite unimpressed as a schoolboy in Britain with these things, we were eager to find out what the real thing was like. Just as bad with a faint whiff of decaying straw, which every wagon wheel seems to have. Maybe that's the grain content.
There are many makes of digestives, but none of them taste like McVities. We still have Peek Freans here, but the funny little biscuits with the oven-hardened red jam blob in the middle taste remarkably like sawdust, and the tasteless jam sticks to your teeth for far too long. The bourbons are dreadful as well, being hard and with concrete-like filling and the digestives are merely passable. We had Marks and Sparks here for about 15 years, but despite their best efforts, they were unable to convince Canada that having all their goods arrayed around with snooty sales ladies and no pizazz was the marketing wave of the future. However, while they were here, at least people who had visited the UK and knew about M&S could get decent tea and biscuits, along with tinned cock-a-leekie soup, which I understand was a smash bestseller to expatriate Welshmen. The trouble with M&S stuff is that whilst being of first class quality, it never tastes like the original, does it? Something not quite right.
After ten years of living in the colonies, I returned to London to take postgrad studies, and in my five years there downed so many cuppas and biscuits, it was all a bit of a blur really. Tescos were just starting up and were infested with grim-faced women buying the basics in pretty grimy locations like Lamb's Conduit Way, where one had to pass by the proprietor of an Indian restaurant who would call out the wondrousness of his curries and especially Bombay Duck as we Canadians tried to look the other way hurrying to buy some biscuits and a loaf of bread. By the way, ordinary bread in the UK is the best I've ever found by a long shot. I just can't enjoy a decent boiled egg without a proper slice of bread that's both chewy and heavy. Our loaves here weigh a pound and are the same size, which makes them fluffy enough to blow away in a light breeze, but not suitable as a gustatory complement to a humble egg. On the other hand, Britain invented Batchelors dehyrated peas and Vesta curries so you can't have everything your way can you.
Fast forward to 1993 when I made my last trip to the UK, and managed to visit nearly all the friends I made while living in London, this meant travelling the length and breadth of the Uk including the Isle of Islay and quite a few drams of damn good whisky. Where was I, oh yes -- In Manchester, I had to give up tea-drinking by 6pm one day, as I counted back to the beginning of the day whilst sequestered in the loo and realized I had had 23 cups at six different places and a couple of real Eccles cakes from that place in Eccles which claims to have invented them. Very nice but felt a bit queasy.
So now I read on your website that tea consumption is down a lot due to youngsters drinking too much juice and coke, which is a real pity because it leads to diabetes all that sugar. Plus, there's nothing like a quiet gathering with a nice cuppa and a biscuit or three. Anyway, I now buy Brooke Bond tea packaged in India from a local merchant so as to get the real tea flavour I like and make it properly as it's loose. Not like the leaf tea of my youth to look at, little hard granules that explode in boiling water. Not bad at all. On the other hand, besides biscuits of many varieties that would be instantly recognizable to you, we also get stuff from Poland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands which I have endeavoured to try. I should think that anyone from the aforementioned countries who visited the UK and had a decent cuppa and a UK biscuit would not want to return home. Good Lord, what are these things? Dry, crumbly biccies that don't travel well at all. Our Canadian stuff is much more like yours than these continental things. The Dutch try the hardest, but the German ones come in big bags without liners which mean they get crushed just getting here. I mean Britain gave the world hardtack, didn't it, and if that wasn't the beginning of the digestive, I don't know what is. Unbreakable unless dropped on its edge just so.
Funnily enough, the very best tea I've ever been offered anywhere at a commercial place was in the USA, and I can recommend it highly. Visit the Acadia National Park in Maine, and wonder of wonders, the US National Parks Service serves tea in the garden and adjacent meadow at picnic tables in summer during the late afternoon. It is brought by attractive college students working their summer jobs there and arrives in a giant green porcelain teapot with Parks Service logo together with proper cups and saucers and milk and sugar. Just couldn't believe it when it happened, so had to have another pot with my parents. Wow. Who'd have ever believed it, the setting was perfect, the tea divine. So unexpected.
Well I've written far too much and don't understand those icons, so don't know where this fits. But keep up the good work, I laugh my head off reading it and none of my friends understand why when I show them. I think I'll have a nice cup of tea and read some more, because I'm already sitting down.
|Nicey replies: Thanks Bruce for that mammoth message, and all of that useful information on Canada, its biscuits, cakes and its tea. Also thanks for the tip off about a place in America that makes a decent cup of tea, after four years I think we may be edging towards double figures on that. You also managed a fairly respectable icon haul. If you had kept going a bit longer I'm sure you would have most of the others, and I felt particularly that the kettle and toast icons where within your grasp at one point. |
|Mrs Ann Day
||Good afternoon Nicey,|
Love the site. Anything that keeps me off of eBay is a good thing!
Where do you sit on the subject of date slice? Is it a biscuit or a cake or something else? I have made loads of these as they go well at a cricket tea along with the jam and cream scones, chocolate cake and strong tea. I always know when to start brewing the tea....it's when my husband goes in to bat.
As an addition to my extensive cake repetoire I have invented the bakewell slice and the mincemeat and marzipan slice. Basically the same constrution as the date slice but filled with marzipan and mincemeat/jam of your choice. I especially like making them as my husband hates marzipan and I get to eat them all ;-)
On the subject of tea I have been to India on a number of occasions and they can't make tea worth a damn. what with the hot milk and boiling everything up together in a saucepan. What is it with Lipton's Yellow label tea? It seems to be all you can get in hotels. I've travelled extensively and the only hotel where it wasn't on the breakfast table was in The Dominican Republic where they served proper Twinings Breakfast tea.
|Nicey replies: Ann,
We had a discussion on this very topic not so long ago and agreed that 'slice' should be a recognised term deserving of its own circle in our mighty Venn Diagram of the baked goods world. It has the significant advantage of neatly solving the 'Flapjack dilemma' that has plagued cake biscuit taxonomy theory for years.
Of course the only problem in all of this is that I had just got the diagram looking very nice for the book and I'll have to redo it.
Excellent piece of research by POST CTI Technical Support Team into supermarket doughnuts, but what about the poor independent baker, struggling in high streets abandoned for "retail parks" by larger firms?
The best doughnuts in the world (according to a scientific survey of one person, me) come from Beaney's bakery under the railway arches in Strood, Kent. On the other hand, a bakery that shall remain nameless (by the bus station in Rotherham) had no jam doughnuts at all. What's that all about? Call yourself a baker's?
Is there a public transport and bakeries theme developing here? Oh dear, rambling now
|POST CTI Technical Support Team
||Dear Mr Nicey,|
Inspired by your web site we have been busy rating a selection of doughnuts which can be enjoyed whilst having a nice cup of tea and a sit down. Our scientific analysis has helped us to avoid the disappointment of having a nice cup of tea and a sit down ruined by an under achieving doughnut. We would like to share our results with you and your readers.
Our team of highly qualified doughnut technicians have studiously evaluated each offering from the leading doughnut retailers, grading their experiences against a pre-defined set of criteria. We have used these results to determine the best doughnut overall and the best value for money doughnut. The winners of each category are as follows:
2004 Best Doughnut: Marks and Spencer
2004 Best Value for Money Doughnut: Morrisons (Pack of 5)
We expect the results to spark furious debate and we are quite prepared to re-evaluate any doughnuts if required (except Alldays).
POST CTI Technical Support Team
|Retailer||Date||Price (£)||Packaging||Jam Content||Jam Quality||Appearance||Coating Quality||Texture||Average||Total||Comments|
|Sainsbury's (Box of 10)||20/7/04||0.099||7||4||5||6||6||4||5.3||323.2||More bang for your buck|
|Tesco Metro (Bag of 5)||7/7/04||0.116||8||5||5||6||6||6||6.0||310.3||Gobsmacked.|
|Asda (Bag of 5)||8/7/04||0.112||7||4||4||4||5||4||4.7||250.0||Wow.|
|Safeway (Supermarket)||1/7/04||0.1475||4||5||6||6||4||7||5.3||216.9||Focussed on doughnut not packaging resulting in a first-class experience.|
|Safeway (Bag of 10)||29/9/04||0.099||5||3||3||4||3||3||3.5||212.1||Average|
|Marks & Spencer||18/6/04||0.25||9||10||8||7||8||9||8.5||204.0||Sets the standard. Well done.|
|Safeway (Garage)||16/7/04||0.1475||5||3||3||4||4||3||3.7||149.2||Let down.|
|Waitrose||15/6/04||0.2425||6||3||5||7||4||8||5.5||136.1||Needs twice as much Jam. Premium price for an average doughnut.|
|Tesco Metro (loose)||30/6/04||0.3||1||3||4||3||1||4||2.7||53.3||Disappointing.|
|Mary Rose Bakery (Alldays)||21/7/04||0.345||2||2||1||3||2||2||2.0||34.8||Shocking|
|Nicey replies: This is outstanding work of the highest level, we all owe you a debt of thanks.|