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I read with distress the plight of Michele Simkins of Portland in Oregon. Through your fine website I thought I might offer her some suggestions.
Decent biscuits are available here, though you will have to do a little hunting for them.
The real classics (Hob-Nobs, Digestives etc) can be found at a small shop in Lake Oswego, just off the main street ('A' Street I think it is imaginatively named). It is called "Lady Di's" or some such twee name, but they do have the goods. They also sell some proper choccy, so I would hurry round before I nab it all. There is also a shop on the main street in Newberg (heading East) that has all kinds of things British. I can't remember the name of the shop, but they have a Scottish 'Lion Rampant" displayed in the window.
You can also buy decent biscuits at "Cost Plus" in Washington Square, just across from Barnes and Noble.
As for tea; Winco sell Tetley teabags. I know they are not the best, but they are light years ahead of Liptons.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you can also pick up the odd gem at Grocery Outlet. This is one of the few, though very intermittent, sources of blackcurrant jam in the US.
|Nicey replies: Thanks Ian very helpful.|
McVities Milk Chocolate Digestive Review
|Dear Nicey (if that's your real name),|
I thought you might appreciate this tale of a visit to Waterstones, a copy of your book "A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down", and the power of coincidence. It happened this lunchtime, and I am still in shock.
To cut a long story of aimless ambling short, I was flicking through said book in said Wasterstones, and stopped to read one completely random page. Imagine my astonishment to find that it contained an in-depth discussion of a Bagpuss episode featuring the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Mill, a horror story that I consider the equal of anything by Poe. I remember to this day the severe trauma I felt as a child when the whole enterprise was revealed as an Enron-style fantasy. In fact, it is my only memory of that portion of my childhood. I attribute this to the sheer power that biscuits have over the brain. To know that someone else has suffered like myself is more reassuring than you can imagine. For that, I thank you sir. Perhaps you should set up a support group?
I ought to add that I didn't buy the book in question, but it has been placed firmly atop my Christmas list, and that's pretty much legally binding.
I remain, etc.,
||Jeremy Thomas is not far off the mark in suggesting NASA as a possible source of biscuit protection technology. As you rightly point out, Loughborough University have invested a lot of time and effort with their digital speckle pattern interferometry research into just why a biscuit behaves like an aeroplane’s wing when stressed. The problem of cracked biscuits in an unopened pack is well-known in the industry, and as well as physical damage during transit can also be caused by the phenomenon of “checking”. This particularly affects Rich Tea biscuits, and is often brought on by a new batch of flour from a new crop being used. This results different levels of moisture migration than previous batches, and the biscuits will develop hairline cracks. This doesn’t happen until several hours after baking however, by which time the biscuits have been packed and sent to a distribution depot. The problem can be easily prevented by varying the baking temperature, but it has to be identified first – hence the speckle analysis thingie.|
Just got the book – thanks for the namecheck in the credits!
Abbey Crunch Review
I must agree with your comments regarding Abbey Crunch. A number of years ago, my colleagues and I conducted an in depth survey on the 'dip-ability' of a broad range of buscuits. On a daily basis we would subject a different type of bisciut to a range of dips in tea (and coffee too - we were young fools!). On the instructions of the Sales Director, the white board in the sales office was deployed to display the results, and a giant grid was filled to record every aspect of each biscuit's performance. The ultimate winner of course was Abbey Crunch although there were a number of noteworthy contestants too. I must say that the bewildering array of bisciuts available nowadays would need two whiteboards to hold all of the test results. Unfortunately our work was in vain, as I put on 12 pounds in weight and the Company went out of business.
Some years previous to this, I entered in to some correspondence with United Biscuits (I think it was they). I wrote to them complaining and asking why the end two Custard Creams in a pack are ALWAYS broken, and suggested simply removing them. They would naturally be replaced by a piece of foam or similar shock-absorbing material - I suggested that they should contact NASA, as they were very good a developing new composite materials and may have already undertaken a project like this for biscuits on the space shuttle. Let's face it, reaching escape velocity from the Earth's gravitational pull would potentially shatter any biscuit and could even give a tinned cake a good shake.
I was delighted to receive a courteous reply from a gentleman called Nigel Lewis in the Customer Services Office. Although courteous, his reply failed to impress, and it seemed obvious that they planned to do little to resolve this particular issue. He also claimed that 'in-house technical expertise' would be used for packaging developments and it was 'most unlikely that they would seek NASA's assistance'. In the 20 years since, I have wasted countless Custard Creams and made a great deal of mess due to the broken end biscuits in Custard Cream packs. Are you aware of any other biscuit which suffers quite so badly from damage in transit? If the Company which I used to work for were still in business we could have done a survey.
My biscuit of the moment is Chocolate Malted Milk - yum!
|Nicey replies: The chap at McVities was probably thinking about the outcome of the digital speckle pattern interferometry program at Loughborough University. This high tech technique adapted from the aerospace industry studies of fighter wings, showed that stresses and strains caused by residual baking moisture can lead to spontaneous fracturing of the biscuits in the pack. The end two just break due to the unsupported over hang of the biscuit over the cream and wear and tear, I expect.|
Jules Destrooper Almond Thins Review
Having previously tried a pack of the said 'finest' version of these, I have one or two observations.
Being a biscuit lover myself, I have often stuck rigorously stuck to the '3 biscuits at a time' law, however these threw a hole box of spanners in the works. Three of these did not remotely reach the satisfaction gained from three average biscuits, so starts the dilemma. Do you stick at three and go unsatisfied, instantly tanishing these as rubbish biscuits or do you dig in and eat nine, (I figure they are a third the thickness so triple your quota), however if you take nine in company, you inevitably start rumours about your dietary problems. I didn't want to dislike this biscuit because they actually taste quite good (and hold up to a good dunking), but I have to propose that they lose the 'thin' part and make a proper biscuit.