• 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
    Gardener, Blogger, Journalist, Lecturer etc, etc. Much of his life is spent loafing around other people’s gardens issuing directives and generally cluttering up the place. However, like the great Mr Kipling, he does (occasionally) make exceptionally good gardens. (Although even Mr Kipling messed up a bit with the Carrot and Walnut Mini Classics.)

    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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Biscuits – the School Years

I have a theory which has yet been unproven but which, when I mention to friends, is greeted with much agreement.  There are some biscuits which are almost impossible to actually buy.  “Such as?” I hear you cry.  Well, those biscuits that are in huge supply at schools – the sports biscuits (milk biscuits with graphics of athletics on them), custard creams (bleurgh), rich tea (why??) and garibaldi.  The doyennes of break times these biscuits are but does anyone actually purchase them now they are adults?  Are they not the loss leader amongst the biscuit manufacturers of this land, given away in huge quantities to satisfy break-time needs amongst school pupils?

Break-time at my school was brill, whizzer and generally tops. As a youngster it meant warm curdled milk or even frozen curdled milk and a biscuit.  As we got older it meant POST (whooop) and the chance for a crafty fag on the roof and then a biscuit.  Simple pleasures but 10.30am to 10.46am were sacrosanct minutes in my life.  And each time we were left lacking by the biscuit selection.  Until, that is, you made prefect when HobNobs made an appearance.  Oh the beauty of such a biscuit, talked about in hushed reverent tones amongst those in the years lower than prefect-ness.  A whole packet amongst the 10 of us, eaten in hushed oaty whispers in the prefects room.

A hierarchy of biscuits then during my formative years leading to the assumption that the lower down the school you were, the more likely you were to receive biscuits that were charitable donations from big brands.  All of us just waiting until that day that a packet of HobNobs was our prize.  We even hoarded our biscuits, sometimes taking four sports biscuits or three custard creams and secreting them amongst our green and brown geography exercise books, forgetting them until double maths and then being ridiculously excited at our contraband.  Even garibaldi biscuits, the worst of the worst in the heirachy took on a special meaning when found a few days later and nibbled surreptitiously (and as they tasted stale the minute they came out of the packet, two days made no difference in succulence).

Just last week I was browsing the aisles of a well known discount food shop and happened upon ‘sports biscuits’ (a whole pack of 40 for 50p….) but after picking them up, looking at the strange characters engaged in pole vault or long jump on their beige faces, I quite easily put the packet down again as a sign that I had outgrown the hierarchy of school biscuits once and for all.

Sarah Wolf


9 Responses

  1. Sometimes a generous soul would splash out on an whole bag of broken biscuits for the sixth form common room. What mutated delights — half sandwich biscuits, or the cream without the biscuit in fist-sized clumps; And maybe the odd chocolate covered treasure.

  2. I will not hear a word said against Custard Creams. I buy them on a regular basis, considering them a retro classic and therefore securing my place amongst the cool kids.
    As for Sports Biscuits, I have only ever encountered them as part of a Family Selection. Was there also a version with an iced back? Or was that a different creature entirely?

    • I’m sorry but what sort of message does an iced sports biscuit send out?
      Here we are encouraging children to run like antelope or leap like fleas.
      We tell them all that stuff about a healthy mind and a healthy body.
      We bombard them with propaganda about hearty exercise and stories of our heroic Olympians.
      And then we go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like icing the backs of Sports biscuits.
      If we’re not careful they will all slope off and become Darts players.

  3. Iced sports biscuits – wow. That sounds the height of sophistication and delight. Never encountered these (but full packs of the normal ones now available in a discount supermarket near you….)

    • At last, a use for my local B&M.
      Up until now I’d only been using them for cheap bird food.
      I’m tempted to peruse their biscuit aisle but can’t help thinking about the abuse my bowels received from their cheap coffee. Some sort of Nescafe that is normally exported to Brazil of all places. It did not agree with my stomach and they had a bit of a falling out.
      Perhaps I should stick to Lidl.

  4. I don’t remember many biscuits from my childhood. When my grandparents used to collect my sister and I from school we used to have a teatime treat. This consisted of fruit and interchangeably (depending on whatever was in season?) custard creams, Jaffa cakes and macaroons.

    Is a coconut macaroon a biscuit? How does it differ from a Jaffa cake to be classified a non- biscuit? Has this been covered, and perhaps we can consider these subjects bi- generic hybrids of the biscuit/cake world?

    Sorry for the tangent.

    • Well I was wondering earlier today if shortbread is always a biscuit?

      But back to school biscuits – I was once part of the biscuit sales team at my secondary school where biscuits were sold during morning break. Not only did we get to choose which biscuits to buy but were able to eat the accidentally broken ones. We also had to deal with the massive change to decimalisation!

  5. I attended a quaker school in York and as such we had close links with the local Quaker manufacturer – Rowntrees. Consequently, our mid morning snack was commonly known as ‘Choc break’.

    That’s right people. Read it and weep!

    Also, when the wind blew in the right direction, you could smell the chocolate from the factory whilst out playing hockey. Now tha’t the sort of sport biscuit I approve of.

  6. If the biscuits don’t get you then your packed lunches will. A very nice blog conjouring up memories of a bygone time at school. You might also enjoy this:


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