Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Lost in Translation: Biscuits

The other day, I offered Simon this biscuit, telling him, "Do you want a Hobnob?"

Not a Hobnob
I will wait a while for my British readers to gasp in horror and feel waves of sympathy for Simon overcome them.
Because that's not a Hobnob.
That's a Rich Tea. And a whole world of expectations had been ruined.

(Is that a cookie to Americans? If so, then what is a biscuit? I got very confused when I was over there. In fact I probably have quite a few "Isabelle Failing at America" posts in me yet.)

For the smart Alecks telling me that it says so on the biscuit, I will add that I was not looking at said biscuit.

But the key here is, why is it important?

Well it is. Crucial even.

To paraphrase a much-loved character, one does not simply eat biscuits. There is a process, there is a hierarchy, there is an art.

The process is simple, one eats biscuits (note the plural here, one does not eat only one biscuit, unless one possesses treasures of self-restraint unheard-of in the British Isles), and one dunks biscuits. In tea. Obviously.

Dunking is the part where the art comes in, because dunking requires timing, dexterity and judgment. If you dip your biscuit too little, then it is barely wet, the flavour of the tea barely comes through and the inside remains too hard. Bad dunking. In fact, no dunking at all, that's dipping.
If you dunk your biscuit for too long, then you drown it, a chunk of it comes off and makes disagreeable lumpy leftovers at the bottom of your cup, ruining the end of your tea, whilst the rest is a soggy mess. If that is the case, you might as well hand in your umbrella and bowler hat, for you will never be British. Many things can be forgiven, but not bad dunking.

It is also very important to be aware of biscuit hierarchy, lest you are taken for a spoilsport hostess.
Biscuits are not created equal, and no matter what your tastes are, their classification is not up for debate (I know, because I really like Malted Milks and hate Jaffa Cakes, but I still have to be aware where they respectively stand in the order of things).

Malted Milk are bottom, Jaffa Cakes are top. (If anyone tries to discuss whether Jaffa Cakes are cakes or biscuits, I will say it once and for all I.DON'T.CARE. They're just horrible.)

So, here is what you must know, from least-liked to most-liked:

They taste perfectly nice, but you have to despise them. By law.

Apparently they are no good either (Why?)

I know, I know. They look exactly like Rich Teas. But for some reason these are not despised.

Chocolate anything is always higher in the ranks, no matter the biscuit. Or whether you like chocolate.

Hobnobs. It is true though, they are lovely.

Nom nom nom.

Shortbreads have a very high currency, but for no discernible reason.

Jaffa Cakes of doom. Blerg.

Here you go. Now you can see why it was such a horribly misleading thing to present a Rich Tea as a Hobnob. And now if you make the same mistake, it won't be my fault.

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  1. I can't begin to tell you what an American biscuit would be called in Britain (or France, either), but here's the basic recipe: Blend together 2-3....never mind, I just remembered all our measurements are different too. Well, they're sort of like what I think Brits call fairy cakes (and we call muffins), but flat and not sweet. They're raised with baking powder. If you add sweetener, they become shortcakes (one type; what is called a shortcake varies depending on what part of the country one is in). Does that help? Here's what wikipedia has to say: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscuit

    1. P.S. I definitely agree with you about Jaffa Cakes.

    2. I think I can just about visualize what you mean. And I am really glad I am not alone in not liking Jaffa Cakes! (confusingly, in France we call them Pim's. Which is a drink over here :-D )

    3. They are Pim's stateside, too.

  2. I am not, as you know, a chocolate lover, or a person who eats biscuits, but if I were, I would never, EVER, consider eating a Jaffa cake, they are just wrong! Malted milk are just so cute, will the little cow and the the yummy taste. Digestive are the best, McVities only, they have to be McVities. A really nice thing is to make the biscuit base to a cheesecake by crushing digestive biscuits with melted butter, and then eating some before you press it in the tin! Ha Ha! Happy crunching, The Ma-in-Law xx

    1. Brilliant, let's take Jaffa Cakes down! And I would never consider anything but McVities, of course! I'll try the cheesecake tip, but then Simon will probably have to eat it all (not sure he'd complain about that). Also, I like how you are posing as me here ;-)