Biscuit Etiquette Part 4 – The confection of confusion

As most biscuit appreciators will attest there are certain things you would expect to find when tucking into a choice morsel. One of the most obvious is a crunch in the bite – as we all know soft biscuit equals bad biscuit, hence the need for a well crafted tin in which to preserve the firmity.

It’s with no uncertain trepidation then that we approach today’s subject matter, the mysterious pleasures that exude from that duplicitous of all confection….the jaffa cake.

This way madness lies...

Now I can already hear the emails forming in your heads along the lines of ‘Martyn, have you completely lost your mind?’ ‘What madness is this that you spout?’ ‘A CAKE!!!! a +^!*@£ CAKE in the biscuit section!!!!!’ ‘Increase the size of your manhood with this new pill’ etc., but first hear me out, then at least you can throw me out in the full knowledge of this mania that has taken me its unwilling prisoner.

You see I think we must seriously consider the case of the Jaffa cake. Whereas many would posit that it’s just sponge with ideas above its station, or that the very nature of including a fruit section would place it squarely in the realms of tart, it’s to its testament that the Jaffa still proudly nestles in the heart of the biscuit section in your local supermarket, as if daring you to remove it. In many ways its the Rosa Parks of biscuitdom, refusing to be moved so that another generic packet of digestives can take its place – if you listen carefully sometimes in the quiet of midnight shopping you can almost hear the echoes of ‘We Shall Overcome’ drifting up the aisles.

You see it’s the very nature of the Jaffa’s contrast that earns it a place at the saucer of life. The light sponge base, the orange fruit filling, all sealed in a chocolate covering that sports a whimsical grid-like pattern that seems almost to laugh at convention while gently taking its hand and leading it to the kitchen for the promise of more.

It is the seductress, the confuser, a taste of the exotic that you know is wrong but cannot resist, it is the bi-curious of biscuits which will drag many willingly to their doom and mock them in their destruction.

So step warily to the table that would present the Jaffa, and hold steadfast in the convictions of your mind lest you be caught in its sorcery. The exotic brings unique pleasures, but the cost can be ruinous.

On last thing to remember, another sign of the wicked perversion of biscuitry that is the Jaffa. Just as with Pharaoh’s heart against the nation of Israel, when a Jaffa hardens all hope of mercy is lost.

You have been warned…

Biscuit Etiquette – Part 1

As we’ve already mentioned on a previous post the British do love a good cuppa. Alongside the beverage of champions though is something that is as much a necessity or comrade-in-arms as Emma Peel was to Steed, Scully to Mulder, or Butch to the Sundance Kid. I speak, of course, of that most gentle of confection…the humble biscuit.

It’s a subtlety of the British manner system (more on that in a later post) that is usually overlooked, but such neglect can have devastating consequences. Imagine the scene : You invite a classic Brit into your home, offer them a cup of tea, show them much kindness, feed them a veritable feast, possibly entertain them with games or even performances from the piano in your parlour, hand-knit them a scarf and matching hat while executing a particularly difficult and intricate gymnastics routine, then carry them home through the snow on your bare back. You would expect some appreciation for your fine hostelry, but the thing going through your guest’s mind the entire time in the warmth of your home would be,

‘Why didn’t they give me a biscuit with my tea? How did I offend them? Maybe they hate me… right, that’s it! My vengeance will be swift and terrible!’

Wars start this way people, long and terrible wars – although mostly internalised and only played out through slight impoliteness in extreme cases. To avoid such faux pas, and as a vital way of understanding British culture,  observing the nuances of biscuit etiquette is of utmost importance.  But such is the complexity of the subject that I thought I would begin a series today that points out the essentials that will help you survive even the most testing afternoon tea without drawing the occasional disapproving glance.

To understand the way Brits interact with biscuits first you must understand the things themselves. So here we begin our survival guide to Biscuit etiquette with one of nature’s most obvious danger signs.

The Rich Tea Biscuit (or as it’s know in street parlance ‘The Quiet Assassin’)

Danger! Danger!

If your host presents you with a plate of Rich Tea biscuits then immediately several things become apparent. Firstly they’re a simple, practical person. No unnecessary frills, whistles or bells are needed for them to feel secure in themselves. But take a glance around the room… are things a little too clean? Does everything have its place, and everything in its place? Possibly the furniture or decorations tend to be spotlessly white? If children live in the house is there any evidence of their existence except for the quiet, small creatures that shuffle into the room at dinnertime, their clothes buttoned up to the neck, hair firmly brushed into a side parting and not a crease in sight?

The safest thing for you to do is make profuse apologies about realising that you’ve left the oven on at home next to your narcoleptic, chain-smoking, grandma who was sleepily sitting on your woolen sofa watching Countdown. Then carefully replace your biscuit, being most deliberate in your efforts not to drop a single crumb onto the floor, and leave the house at a formidable pace.

Once outside run as fast as you can until you’ve put at least 20 leagues between you and the abode, then breath a sigh of relief, for you have escaped the clutches of a serial killer. The Rich Tea biscuit is such an obvious sign of repressed anger, fear, and passion that the host may as well have arrived at the door in a blood-soaked butcher’s apron, knife in hand, screaming that they were about to turn you into a pie.

It’s pretty much tasteless, often pulls apart while being dunked in tea, and has a strange resemblance to Farley’s Rusks…only less fun. To willingly give these to people without the accompaniment of chocolate digestives, Jaffa cakes, or Jammy Dodgers is obviously an evil ploy to gum up your mouth and thus dampen your screams when the chainsaw gets fired up.

So beware the Rich Tea biscuit, and those that bear them…