• 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.

  • Biscuit Encounters on Twitter

  • The Synod of Biscuitry

    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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Recipes From The Past

BB, before blogging, there was extra time to putter around the household. Notebooks were compiled with cutsie pootsie clip art as the new fangled computer was experimented with. The color ink cartridge was drained, so only black ink was available, making silhouettes the way to go as cover sheets for the various notebooks to hold our tear sheets from magazines based on subject matter. With index tabs and spine labels. The recipe book is by far the go to among these concotions of information. Commissar your honor, honour, isn’t that little kitty too adorable? How about the little petticoat peeking out from under the apron. I look just like that still, even as a grandmama.
Let us peek inside. The book.
Bits and scraps of paper with recipes scribbled on them are held neatly in plastic jackets, better to not smear flour and butter on as the right recipe is culled for the days cookie baking. Many have been discarded over the years, but these remain. The best of the best. Let us explore them further.
Ah, Magic Bars. Many of these recipes came from the days of our employment in the accounting department of a large oil company in Oklahoma. The ladies would often bring baked goods to the office, and the recipe would be provided upon request. As a young woman, just starting my own household, all recipes and cooking pointers were welcome. They also taught me to crochet, even though I was the only left handed one among them. A more generous group would be hard to find.
The famous Hershey Kiss Cookie. We still make these. Some call them peanut blossoms. Written on a sheet of stenographers paper.
This is the oldest one, from 1961. It was found in between pages of a cookbook that had belonged to my grandmother. We have made the brown candy, better known today in the US as pralines. Very delicious, nearly pure sugar with pecans.
Notice the pink card that this recipe for No Bake Cookies is written upon. It is a key punch card, for those too young to remember such things. Before there were bar codes that could be read by computers, back in the day, there were little holes punched into cards like this that represented a document of some kind. There were large rooms full of young ladies who would hit the keys that made these holes, the keypunch room. Trays of these cards would go to be read, added and printed out onto computer runs, large sheets of paper with holes running down each side. The total would be checked against yet more papers of numbers. If there was a discrepancy, still more large rooms of young ladies would check each card against the run to find the error, the run room. We were awash in little pink cards, as you can imagine. If one would write quite small but legible, always a plus in the accounting biz back then, recipes would fit.
The best has been saved for the grand finale. Written on a larger unpunched keypunch card, the Kentucky Bourbon Balls were far and away the most popular confection ever made. Fondant and nut balls were soaked in Bourbon and allowed to cure for several days, in a shoe box lined with waxed paper. Then they would be frozen on a cookie sheet. The fine art of dipping these into melted chocolate over a double boiler was finally mastered. Now one could use a microwave to melt the chocolate in a glass quart measuring cup, or do it in the old school method. Just so you know, a couple of these goodies would have you singing Oklahoma while you were looking for the error on the computer run.

The Orange Frances Garrison.

You will notice that Frances should now be addressed as The Orange Frances Garrison. This is because she has already contributed a phenomenal ten posts to this Blog. President Obama has been informed. For anybody who is perhaps a little fuzzy about how these things work the relevant post is here


17 Responses

  1. Thank you, The Orange Frances — I really enjoyed that.

  2. Whoo hoo Frances and I like how the cover of your recipe book reflects your new found status!

    How well I remember those punch cards as I used them when I had a temporary job in an unemployment benefit office in 1980. If the unemployed person turned up to ‘sign on’ as scheduled, then the punched card with their details was duly fed into the computer and out came a very long piece of paper tape at the end of the day which had the details of everyone who’d signed on that day, so their benefit cheques could be printed.

    I well remember a vast room of girls making sure everything was OK, armed with little hole punches and sellotape to make any corrections needed to the paper tape.

    • Oh VP, the corrective tape! I had completely forgotten about that, thanks for the memory jog. Those were the days, weren’t they? We were all in miniskirts up to our hinderlands too, pants were not allowed to be worn by females at that time. It was an art to bend over and retrieve a dropped card without exposing ourselves and our pantyhose, in heels of course. Thanks for the whoo hoo! 🙂

      • They sure were Frances. I had a bit of a surprise last year when we went to visit Bletchley Park, the place where they decoded the Enigma machine during WWII. The site also has a computer museum and lo, one of the prize exhibits was the mainframe computer I’d worked on to install during the early 1980s (i.e. when I found permanent employement after temping in the unemployment benefit office).

        Man, it was huge! And it probably wouldn’t be intelligent nor powerful enough to do all the things your new phone does.

  3. Thanks for bestowing that title upon my bowed head whilst I was on bended knee, James. I am expecting to be contacted by the white house at any moment for an invitation to come for cake, or at the least, tea and biscuits. It is an honor to write for this esteemed blog. 🙂
    The Orange Frances

    I just had to write it.

  4. Well deserved, Orange Frances your posts have been fun reads and this one is a good peek into your past~~I remember those punch cards from when our college went tech for class registration! We were told to make sure we didn’t bend them or risk class assignments being messed up.

    Another good memory is the taste of those peanut butter kiss cookies…yummy.


    • Thanks Gail. It seems so long ago to even think about things such as punch cards. Technology has certainly sped past us, or me. My new phone is still a mystery.

  5. What a great tale, VP! Those old computers took up whole rooms, that had to be kept quite chilly since they generated so much heat. A freezing job, working in there. I hope you wore a nice wubby sweater. 🙂

  6. Wow, ‘The Orange Francis’, it is an honour to share blogging space with you. I, still merely Carrie.plain, can but look up to you and think hopelessly of more biscuit stories to write – where has my groove gone?

    • HA Carrie, you were the leader, who forged the way forward with your postings to let us dream of also writing more and achieving nobility. The honor is sharing space with you. 🙂

  7. I have a notebook as well with handwritten receipes and bits from magazines. Each of them remind me of someone or something.

  8. Frances, your recipes look a bit like mine. You can tell any of the recipes of mine that are favs can be found by looking at how stained the pages are! LOL! My grandmother had given me a Household Searchlight cookbook because I had asked for it. Inside it were a gazillion crisco labels with all sorts of recipes on them. I doubt that she made many of them but she sure did keep them. We found many more and lots of recipes handwritten in the margins of the books when we cleaned her house out. Still fun to see Granny’s writing.

    • You are so right about the stains, flour and/or butter on our fingers as we look at it once again to be sure we have measured properly or have the oven set at the right temp. We have recipes from my mother in law, written in her handwriting that are beyond priceless since she passed away a few years ago. We were just looking at them this Christmas, unsure of a recipe. I gave it to my sister in law, her own mother’s recipe. Priceless doesn’t begin to cover it.

  9. Lovely post, Orange Frances – will Faire Garden be renamed Green Gables?

    I’ve got an old recipe from my grandmother, too – for Pfefferneusse, used every year….but instead of a notebook most were taped to 5×8 index cards and filed… think your plastic covering would have been a better idea!

    A recipe similar to your Magic Bars recipe made the rounds of Chicagoland in the 1970’s- had butterscotch chips added and the name was Hello Dolly Bars

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. One of my Sons had medical issues, and stayed with my Mother for a couple of years, while we traveled with the military. A couple of years later, he was back home, as our travels were done, and he was pretty well done with surgery or anything to do with Doctors- by his very own proclamation. We were at the farm in central Texas, just he and I and I asked him if biscuits and gravy sounded good for supper to him. He agreed that this would hit the spot, so I went in to put the biscuits in the oven.

    The gravy was simmering, and I was cutting shortening and butter into my flour when he came in. He was very interested in what I was doing, finally asking “Mother, WHAT are you doing?”

    “Making biscuits”, I replied.

    I will never forget his response.

    “I thought you just got biscuits out of the can!”

    My Mother and I had many laughs over that!

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