• The Tenuous Purpose

    This Blog is built - not, as some might expect, on a flimsy whim but on a strong and single minded principle.

    That principle concerns Biscuits and their position in the world.

    We are really very keen on biscuits.
    As are many of you out there.
    We think.

    We wish to create an archive of Arrowroot, a backlog of Bourbons and a catalogue of Chocolate Fingers. Anybody can contribute an entry - or dispute somebody else's - provided they are not dull.
    Even Americans who perhaps don't really have the heritage of biscuitry that we are fortunate to have here.

    Or maybe they do and we are unaware of the full glory of the cookie.

    We realise that this whole subject is admirably and concisely dealt with by that excellent and unbeatable website A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. Our feeble efforts will be as the kicking of a gadfly in the face of their wisdom and experience but we hope that we may have a small contribution to make.

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    James Alexander-Sinclair of Blackpitts
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    Mark Diacono of Otter Farm
    He does sterling work growing many inappropriate plants in Devon. He dedicates a great deal of time and effort nurturing a plethora of plants that are (mostly) totally unsuited to our climate. His is a life of such extreme eccentric dedication that to start a Blog about Biscuits seems perfectly normal. He treads gently in the footsteps of people like the great William Buckland,a professor of Geology who claimed that he could tell location by tasting the local topsoil.

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Red Shirts And Raisins

The Garibaldi biscuit has resurfaced in my house after many years of neglect.  Why?  Because my son is studying A level history and this means he is learning all about the Unification of Italy which Giuseppe Garibaldi was one of the main instigators of and therefore we have to have Garibaldi biscuits!

I have often wondered why Garibaldi biscuits were called Garibaldi.  As opposed to wondering why they were called Dead Fly biscuits which to me was fairly obvious!!  According to my son, now an expert on this period of Italian history and hinting that a field trip would be good next summer, Garibaldi was something of a celebrity in his time, with women swooning over him!!  Typical teenage boy response – “looked at his photo cant see what all the fuss is about”.  I suspect being a revolutionary had something to do with it and not only a revolutionary but one who having gained control of half of Italy (sweeping generalisations here) gave it to the King (possibly Ferdinand but was loosing interest at this point) who had control of the other half. Garibaldi just wanted a unified Italy not to have the power – aaah what a nice guy!

But why name a biscuit full of squashed flies (sorry raisins) after him – that I can’t find out but the biscuits, created by Peak Freans, were named after Garibaldi when he visited in 1861. They still remain, to me, a strange thing to name after an Italian revolutionary.

Helen Johnstone


5 Responses

  1. There was a guy in my local whose nickname was “dead fly”.

    Since most pub nicknames are not in the least obvious, (for instance there was a Tony the “tap” who was an electrician) I had to ask.

    “it’s obvious innit – his names Gary and he’s bald”

  2. Perhaps the directors at Peak Freans got a telegram one Tuesday
    “Italian chap visiting Thursday STOP Make a fuss STOP”
    “Damn” said the CEO “What shall we do”
    Much debate followed and it transpired that they could not get in a brass band as they were all booked. The bunting was a bit motheaten. Short notice for fireworks (and, anyway,he was only coming during daylight). Dancing girls were a bit risque. A bunch of flowers seemed a bit mean.
    The entire board sat around scratching their heads.
    “I know” chirped up one bright spark “you know those biscuits that Big Tom sat on the other day? the flat ones with raisins? We could package them up and name them after him”
    Much relief all round.
    And that, boys and girls, is how it happened that the flat raisiny biscuits came to be called Garibaldi.

    Guiseppe put on a good show of being delighted but actually would have much preferred a trip to Stringfellows.

  3. Dead fly biscuits or even Garibaldi biscuits weren’t names I knew, Jane, but the cookie itself sure looked familiar. It was too long to put in a comment so I wrote a post and linked to yours.


    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. Good grief! Just found out I gave credit for this post to Jane rather than to Helen Johnstone. It’s fixed and I’m sorry for making the error.


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