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||I'm writing to you as an American who has recently begun a love affair with tea and biscuits, to inform you that you are much to blame.|
Although I was born and raised in the American Midwest, I've always been a bit of an Anglophile - eschewing action movies and MTV in favor of staying up late watching old BBC shows on public television.
If you have any American readers ask you where they can buy proper biscuits in the states, you should tell them to see if they have a store called "World Market" in their area. It's a chain of about 300 stores, and really the only part of the country they haven't spread to yet is the Northeast. (http://www.worldmarket.com/) They carry furniture and goods from all over the world, plus lots of tasty imported foods. I became a regular at our local World Market a year or so ago, when I discovered that they had an amazing selection of tasty European chocolate bars. I confess to being a complete Ritter Sport addict, especially the "butter cookie" and "milk chocolate hazelnut" varieties.
Then, this summer I moved into an apartment across the street from the store, and I began visiting much more frequently and trying a lot of new things. Well, really I only got as far as the biscuit aisle and have gotten hooked. I started with the Jaffa Cakes and Jammie Dodgers, but was still skeptical of the Digestive. Then I somehow stumbled upon an article about Custard Creams online a few months back, and ended up at your website.
I have always liked tea, although it is a bit sacreligious in the coffee-obsessed Pacific Northwest part of the country, where I live now. I have to confess though, that until recently I mostly drank herbal "tea", not realizing how good proper tea could be. Everyone I had ever known brewed their tea the same way - by plopping a couple tea bags into a pot and just letting it sit there forever, resulting in bitter, stewed tea. I have since learned the error of my ways (thanks to encouragement from your website and book) and now drink loads of proper tea (with milk and one sugar). I have even procured some PG Tips, which certainly is better than any American brands of tea I've tried. I've become such a tea fanatic I've even bought myself an electric kettle (brilliant! why doesn't everyone else have these?) and my friends and family think I'm crazy.
I've learned to love the digestive, of course. It's the perfect companion to tea! The selection at World Market is varied and unpredictable, but they always have plain and milk chocolate McVitie's digestives, as well as Crawford's Bourbons and Custard Creams (yummy), plus usually Penguins and Cadbury Fingers. Occasionally they will have Gingernuts, Fruit Shortcake, Garibaldis, McVitie's Chocolate Caramel, etc. I recently picked up a packet of Plain Chocolate digestives, which only make occasional appearances on the shelves. My favorite biscuit though has to be the Hob Nob. Until recently I had only tried the Milk Chocolate, but I spied the plain ones on the shelf the other day, and my are they delicious. I prefer to eat the less chocolatey-sweet biscuits at work, as too much sugar makes it hard to type straight.
I have to say that as much of a fan of Cadbury's chocolate I am, I don't like their biscuits. Too sugary for me, and not in a good way. Don't get me wrong, I like my sweets, but Cadbury's biscuits make me feel like I'm just eating spoonfuls of sugar.
This is turning into quite a long message, but I just have one more thing to add:
Regarding fruitcake in the States - I saw an expat reader of yours mention that she had noticed a certain negative attitute towards fruitcake over here. That is certainly true. Fruitcake is legendary for being an horrifically dense, overly sweet dessert that little old ladies bake and give away as Christmas gifts. The story goes that when you receive a fruitcake as a gift, you should not eat it, but rather try to pawn it off as a gift to someone else - or failing that, stick it in the back of the cupboard until next year, when you dust it off and try to give it away again. I don't know anyone that actually eats fruitcake, except for possibly some little old ladies. I may have tried some at my grandmother's house as a child, but I don't really remember. However, I did try some at a fancy tea party that I attended at a fancy hotel last Christmas, and found that it had a very strong brandy flavor, which does not appeal to me at all, and decided to avoid it in the future. Your rhapsodizing about the perfect fruitcake might make me reconsider, though, and attempt to bake my own this Christmas. Maybe.
That's all for now. Keep up the good work!
|Nicey replies: You seem to making very good progress towards a completely well balanced tea and biscuits outlook. The fruit cake will come in time. Ours is a very tasty and relatively light recipe not like those dark tarry masses that appear to have given it such a bad reputation in the US. I would have tough the Pacific North West is probably ideal fruit cake territory, providing it doesn't attract bears.
Marvelous job on the book, I chortle through my tea breaks at work with your lovely book in my hands (can make dunking a bit tricky, mind you).
It might interest you to know that where I work is a milkshake bar called ShakeAway (please do log on at www.shakeaway.com theres a picture of me "Scarlett of the Brighton shakette clan" and a rather fun game involving a space hopper and seagulls, anyway I digress...)
At ShakeAway we make milkshakes out of just about everything you can imagine, including some old favorites of yours, the jaffa cake, digestives, hob nobs, bourbon creams, jammie wagon wheels, bakewell tart, custard creams and jammie dodgers to name but a few. There is a full list of ingredients on site for you to marvel at, 150 in all, and still the list grows. We have recently added sugar puffs, crunchie nut cornflakes, caramel shortbread and double decker.
It may be considered as biscuit dunking herecy, but I'm going to say it anyway; Since working at ShakeAway I have discovered that those little black circular American Oreo Cookies make for very good dunking, apart from leaving little black specks in your tea. They are similar to bourbons in their taste, but the white cream in the middle adds something a little extra special.
|Nicey replies: I think I would need to see this all first hand in order to be convinced, although with your growing empire it appears that people like liquidised biscuits. You certainly have a lot of useful flavours in there including Custard, and Custard Creams covering all possible bases. Horrah! for all your mad milkshakes.
Do you serve tea?
According to a report on the radio just now, the Pope is well on the way to recovery from his latest operation, having eaten breakfast this morning. He apparently had a latte (which I know is anathema to fans of your website) and some biscuits. But the reporter didn't say what kind. What kind of biscuits would the Pope eat? The obvious answer seems to be some kind of biscotti, since he's in Italy. But is there a biscuit that's known to be a bit more holy, or pure? Would he eat Rich Tea because their simplicity and unpretentiousness matches the values his faith professes? Or is he more likely to be a Jammy Dodger man, because the reward for the hard slog of eating your way through the outer biscuit is the jam in the middle (metaphor for struggling through life before reaching heaven)? Might he favour a Penguin, as an ironic reference to nuns?
I'd be interested to hear what the biscuit experts think.
|Nicey replies: Well as the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church, and given the amount of suffering he has already endured, I hope at the very least they offered him some decent biscuits. Being an old Polish fella who had a tube inserted in his neck last night, then I'm thinking he would probably give the biscotti a miss and go for something a bit easier on the throat. I would have thought something light, devoid of tricky to swallow bits an bobs and not too sweet, I think a nice shortbread finger or two.
Maybe in a day or two if his physicians think he's up for it, he might want to see off a whole pack of Jaffa Cakes, which are a popular tea sort of thing in Poland.