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I've been a regular visitor to your site since before you became famous (I googled the word "digestive" during a quiet period at work and up came nicecupoftea... etc) but this is the first time I've been tempted to put finger to keyboard. To get to the point, I feel I must point out that your north/south bun argument doesn't appear to include people from anywhere truly northern and seems to stop at the Humber. As a good Durham lad (and let's face it, I'm a southern softie compared to people from north of the Tyne) I have known all my life that a bun is a plain bread, er, bun - what you southern types might describe as a "bread roll". We do of course have currant buns and iced buns but they are always described as such to stop any confusion.
Just to throw something else into the bun mix so to speak, we proper northerners also have the "stottie cake" which is actually made from bread. Traditionally it was made with the left over dough from making normal bread and was just stuck in the bottom of the oven to bake. This resulted in a flat, round, stodgy, and very tasty loaf which is perfect for putting roast beef in and having with your flask of tea while hiking along Hadrian's Wall.
Unfortunately in recent years the stottie's reputation has been dented by both southerners and large bakery chains who don't understand the bread's heritage and there are many light, fluffy, tasteless "buns" masquerading as stotties even in the heart of Newcastle. I've also heard a lot of people from Manchester saying that stotties are just the same as barm cakes and nothing to get excited about. Well, I'm afraid my north-western friends, that this is because you have eaten one of these fake, bastardised stotties.
Anyway, rant over. Have a good New Year and long may you keep us all up to date on advances in biscuit knowledge.
|Nicey replies: Yes probably best that you got that off your chest so you can face 2006 with a clear head.
| David Blaxill
||Dear Mr Nicey|
Finally got round to exploring your site properly, and an enjoyable experience it has been too. The "Paleolithic" section brought back many memories, as I worked as a sales rep for McVities between 1967 and 69. I thought you might like to hear some of them.
Many of the paleolithics were familiar to me, particularly Butter Osborne, also Barmouth and Dad's Cookies which were advertised on telly. Butter Osborne was one of H&P's best sellers in those days, so much so that McVits brought out a competitor called Butter Crumble. It was the first major new product launched for eons - others being only for specialist areas of the biscuit market, like milk and plain coffee wafers (addictive), cheese snaps (even more addictive), and the disgusting Captain Scarlet, (later Joe 90), which were chocolate covered Majestic Wafers with fancy foil wrapper and inflated price tag. The Butter Crumble (launched summer 69) did in fact taste very much of butter, although I remember its consistency as being mid-way between Rich Tea and shortbread. The packaging was, er, buttery coloured, with some red, and the packaging was a box of thin card, and - wait for it - octagonal, although the biscuits themselves were round and in a tube. They were easy to sell, can't remember any stores refusing to take them (plenty of independent grocers in those days). I left McVits shortly afterwards, and having eaten so many free samples, lost interest in biscuits for at least a decade, so have no further information on them.
When I joined the company (Oct 67), although it was United Biscuits, the Mc Vities salesforce was separate from MacDonalds, Crawfords & MacFarlane Laing, or MCM. UB had also just bought Meredith & Drew, but they made mostly own label stuff for supermarkets. McVities salesmen thought themselves the cream, and were officially supposed to wear bowler hats, (although no-one did except managers), and were provided with stiff collars and collarless shirts. The company did away with these as part of a cost cutting excercise - they also downgraded the company cars from Cortinas to Escorts. McVities best sellers were Chocolate Digestives (Milk outsold Plain two to one) at 1s11d, Rich Tea, Rich Marie, Digestives, Ginger Nuts, Family Assorted, Lincoln, and Royal Scot - all 1s1d and Jaffa Cakes at 2/-. On my very first day I learned an important fact - the average British housewife was five feet three and a half inches tall, and spent two shillings and ninepence a week on biscuits. I looked out for her on my travels, but we never did meet.
Funnily enough, I worked your neck of the woods - Cambridge - quite a lot. The largest supermarket was called The Dorothy (think it was in Sidney St). It was actually a Co-op, Cambridge was dominated by Co-ops in those days. And you could park.
Anyway, I've rambled enough. Might do it again if the mood takes me and I remember things. Great site, do keep it going.
PS I know what you mean about the foul tasting tap water in Cambridge. My daughter is at Magdalene and whenever we visit, the tea she makes (Taylor's Yorkshire - sod the PG and Tetleys) tastes very reminiscent of what you got at Butlins in the seventies. With such a large population of undergraduates, I think they must put Bromide in it.
Regards David Blaxill
|Nicey replies: David,
Many thanks for taking the time to share those memories with us.
A merry Christmas to you and your Cambridge water afflicted daughter.
Morning Coffee Review
This is Mollie from Great Yarmouth, at last I have tasted Morning Coffee Biscuits for the first time in around 18 months. Your tip paid off I went straight to Asda and low and behold they had Morning Coffee biscuits on the shelf, I promptly bought all they had 20 packets in all, went home and ate a whole packet in one go with a cup of coffee made with milk and a drop of rum, ecstasty!. Thanks for info and may I wish everyone through your site a Merry Christmas and Happy Morning Coffee New Year.
An American colleague has suggested something called a cookie swap for the last week at work and I thought you might like to know about it (although you probably do already). Apart from the name, which should obviously be ‘biscuit day’ it sounds quite exciting. Apparently, it is a tradition in the US, whereby everyone brings in a tin of biscuits, which are put on plates on a big table. You then take your now empty tin and fill it up with a variety of biscuits that were brought in by other people.
Usually, the ‘cookies’ should be home baked, but it’s been agreed that we can just bring a packet in if we’re too busy. The only downsidesI can see, is that I might have to stand up to eat, which won’t do and I will also probably just bring in the pack that I want to eat, which might make participation a chore.
|Nicey replies: That does sound like a nice idea. We actually made some Brandysnaps last weekend which came out very well, and I brought some with me down to London in the week when doing a spot of radio chatting about the book. Only problem was wrapping them in greaseproof paper and bubble wrap so the could survive the journey in the travel biscuit tin in my rucksack. Actually there are still a few left in the main holding tin...|
|Far back in the dim and distant past (the late sixties and early seventies) I was in love with the most wonderful biscuit on Earth - the plain chocolate garibaldi. Now of course, the milk chocolate garibaldi was good, but the bitterness of the dark chocolate combined with the sweetness of the fruit made this, for me, the ultimate in 'sitting with my grandfather watching television' treats.|
Sadly, I have not seen such delights for many years, although a friend of mine once presented me with a Christmas gift of several packets worth of garibaldi over which he had carefully spread melted chocolate.
Ah... those lost biscuits of the past...
|Nicey replies: Nick,
Yes our best information on the Chocolate Gariballdi is that it was probably made by the now defunct south London biscuit manufacturer Chiltonian biscuits. Not only were they able to cover some in chocolate but theirs were much more moist than today's Gariballdis. When ever I'm in the presence of one of the powerful people in the biscuit world I habitually put in a plea to bring back the Chocolate Gariballdi. So far there is no sign of this happening.