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|Dr Alice Gorman
My best regards to you, Wifey, and the younger members of staff. I feel like I have been out of contact for too long. Academic life, it must be said, is not always conducive to engaging with the broader world.
Last week, as you know, was a momentous anniversary in the history of space exploration. To celebrate the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 my colleague Dr Lynley Wallis spent all night in the kitchen making special sputnik cakes. We offered them to our graduate students in a masterclass on the day itself. The presence of cake brought home to them how significant this day was in the creation of the modern world. I knew you would enjoy seeing the results of our efforts and attach a (only slightly blurry) picture of the special sputnik cakes.
I remain your most humble devotee,
|Nicey replies: Its always good to hear from NCOTAASD's favourite space archaeologist. We too were excited about the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, which for good reason is the artificial satellite that I most often think of. Despite all the hundreds of other ones up there routing our phone calls, guiding our transport and keeping an eye on the weather, Sputnik is the only one with its own vegetable. The Kohl-Rabis that turn up in our weekly delivered veggi-box are the spit of it, and very nice in a stir fry it is.
I'm impressed that each cake seems to be unique in its design and colour scheme and I note that Dr Wallis didn't spare the food colouring. I hope this didn't render all your students hyper-active with attention deficit issues. Granted the latter is always difficult to diagnose in students although working in such a stimulating field I'm sure you don't suffer from such things.
Tim Tam vs Penguin Review
|Hello there Nicey|
I have recently moved from England to Thailand for a 6 month work placement, and I have to say that the wonderful contents of your site keep me dreaming of hours of tea and biscuitty/cake based fun when I return to Blighty. I miss certain biscuits, the Bourbon, the Custard Creme, the Ginger Nut, but especially the classic Penguin. It was whilst perusing through your the archived tomes of your website however that I came across an exciting alternative, the eccentrically named 'Tim Tam'.
So having swotted up the great Tim Tam versus Penguin debate, and being a self-admitted Penguin fan, I was of course eager to try and compare the Tim Tams, so on my next visit to the local shop purchased a few packs. I was pleasantly surprised by the Tim Tam. Initially there is something about the little biscuit that looks a touch dodgy, it's snubbed size and curiously dark choclolate coating expire a sense of foreboding, but on taste you realise that in fact Penguins merely scratch the surface of the true iceberg that is Chocolate Coated Biscuitdom. Penguins just seem bland in comparison with a Tim Tam. Tim Tams come in many different deeply tasty varieties, in my opinion the best are Choco-Chocolate and Choc-Vanilla, but even an Original Tim Tam will more than adequately complete your cup of tea and biscuit combo, and leave you with a smile on your face. And maybe a touch of melted chocolate at the corner of your mouth.
After a few much enjoyed tasting sessions, I bravely decided, as suggested on this very website and on the bold, brown packaging of the Tim Tams themselves, to try the famous 'Tim Tam Slam'. So I bit off 2 opposite corners, and tried a few times to 'enjoy' my cuppa by sucking it through the biscuit, hoping to filter through some chocolatey goodness. But to my horror, the whole experiment went quite magnificently pear-shaped. Never have I experienced a better way of destroying a biscuit and also a cup of tea. Within just a few seconds of 'Slamming' I found that the bottom third of my Tim Tam was already lost to the dark side of bottom sludge. The top of the Tim Tam also melts, as the steam from your tea rebounds off your face, as you are hunched over the cup, desperately slurping. And if you wear glasses, they will undoubtedly steam up too, thus significantly impairing your vision. With only a miniscule amount of tea slurped through the biscuit, I decided to cut my losses and go for the munch. But the Tim Tam itself had become so soft and gooey that it had lost it's unique taste as it denatured into a watery quagmire, hitting my mouth like a festival buffet stand cup of tea. There was nearly a tear in my eye. The results of the experiment were that firstly I felt and looked like a fool, secondly I had ruined my cup of tea, and thirdly I had also destroyed a couple of delightful Tim Tams that could have so easily been dunked and enjoyed in the 'proper' way. I feel quite ashamed and have vowed never to Tim Tam Slam again. Those Australians need to learn I thing or two about ingesting Tea and Biscuits.
I just thought you should know...
PS For a real treat, place your Tim Tams in the freezer ten minutes before you find somewhere for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.
Thank you for your charming response. You've made me think that perhaps biscuits in space is a much-neglected research area that I should pursue. I'm attaching a picture of a 1959 Russian biscuit tin featuring Sputnik 1 for your enjoyment.
|Nicey replies: Alice,
That is a fantastic biscuit tin, you must be very proud. I tend to think about biscuits in space about 3 or 4 times a week at the moment, which I think is healthy. In our book (out in November) I thought about which would be the best biscuit for zero-g or micro-gravity situation. This is surely going to be an issue for the in flight catering on any future sub-orbital space planes. Inevitably I think its the fig roll.
Once I heard about the Tim-Tam Slam I instantly saw the potential of this phenomenom to add itself to our biscuit munching habits here in the UK. I endeavored to discover the suitability and technique for several of our British wrapped biscuits.
Report 1: The Penguin
This was an obvious first choice because of its similarity to the Tim-Tam. I bit the biscuit at either end to allow for tea passage. As the biscuit gets melty if held, I recommend this is done without hands, simply holding the biscuit carefully in your mouth and dipping the end into the tea. I sucked until the chocolate on the outside began to melt slightly, then withdrew the biscuit from the tea and, using slight incline of the head, flicked the biscuit into my mouth.
Result: The Penguin may be a denser biscuit than the Tim Tam, but it is still eminently suitable for Slamming. The technique is tricky and could get messy for beginners, so using a finger to usher the biscuit in and using a shorter length of biscuit are both acceptable and often recommended. Caution must be advised to avoid risk of choking.
Report 2: The Rocky Bar
Next I tried the Rocky Bar, a sweet light golden biscuit topped with a small layer of caramel and coated with a strange chocolate that tastes milky and not as smooth as Cadbury's chocolate. I tried exactly the same technique as with the Penguin.
Result: An excellent success. Although the chocolate seems cheaper there is more of it. The biscuit is lighter and absorbs tea very well,and the caramel adds a soft chewy egde that was most agreeable. The same cautions as for the Penguin must be applied.
Report 3: The Kit-Kat
Here I was taking a risk. Would wafer be suitable for tea-sucking purposes? Would the thin fingers remain stable, or would it be a cardboard soggy mess? I bit the ends off the single finger of Kit-Kat, and was drawn between whether to bite the finger in half for two shorter slams or whether I should do it in one. In the end I tried both, and proceeded with the Penguin Method.
Result: Fairly good, considering that I am not a wafer fan. The Kit-Kat remained stable but the full length test required me to use hands and bite it twice to get it all in my mouth, definitely a messy endeavor. I would recommend the two-halves method, which gave a smaller, hotter Slam but one that can be done hands free without risk of too much mess.
The preliminary tests have gone very well, and suggest that these British wrapped biscuits are indeed suitable for Slamming. More tests must be done on a wider range of our biscuits forthwith! Well done to the Australians for pioneering the technique.
Tim Tam vs Penguin Review
|TIM TAM MESS(AGE)|
Lizzie age over 30
Paul age over 40
Chloe age 13 and 2 days
Elise age 8
First of all I have to say that following my family's TIM TAM SLAM taste test, the following guidelines should be made widely available to other folk -
1 Tea must be very hot - any cooler and the results are not reliable.
2 Make sure that you bite off diagonal corners - failure to bite off the correct bits will leave the taster in a state of unenlightenment.
3 Suck tea vigorously and noisily through the biscuit, only practice tells you the right time to stop, although any longer than three seconds will almost certainly cause the biscuit to implode into a chocolatey mess.
4 Under nines should only carry out a TIM TAM SLAM test under the supervision of an adult due to the difficulty in removing chocolate stains from clothes and carpets.
Nevertheless. fun was had by all, the Tim Tams were excellent and no creatures including penguins were injured or harmed in any way during the test proceedures.