• 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.

The World’s Most Pointless Biscuit

When I was a child, we used to go to mass every Sunday, and when we came out my mum would take us to the shop to buy a bag of sweets.  Now and again she chose a little pink bar of rubbery ‘Fry’s Turkish Delight’, so for years we had it in our heads that she liked Turkish Delight.  As the seven of us got older we would compete at Christmas over who could hunt down the highest quality stuff. Then one day came the bombshell: she thought we were old enough to take the news that she never actually liked Turkish Delight…

I feel a bit the same about my relationship to a speciality biscuit that comes from the Swiss city of Basel, known as the ‘Basler Läckerli’ (from the German word ‘lecker’, meaning tasty). My friend Willi is an English teacher in Basle and every year he comes to stay bearing a bundle of these biscuits. Every year I feign delight. I’ve known him for 30 years, so I feel our friendship may now be on a strong enough footing to let him know that I don’t actually like these biscuits.

This biscuit, if indeed it deserves that title, is an odd confection.  It tastes of uncooked flour, cinnamon and a surfeit of orange peel. It has no crunch whatsoever and furthermore, when eaten, furs up the roof of your mouth with an unpleasant goo that can only be flushed out by swigging large amounts of tea.

The informative entry in Wikipedia tells you that this biscuit was devised by local spice merchants 700 years ago. I can well believe it. Clearly this biscuit was made in the days before anyone had of thought of temperature controlled ovens, chocolate chips, soft caramel, pink wafers or any of the other yummy accoutrements which the modern biscuit sports.

It probably was fine with a midmorning glass of mead, but a biscuit with no crunch whatsoever is like a perfume without a smell – what’s the point?

I have only myself to blame. I should have said it long ago, but I didn’t dare pierce anyone’s civic pride.  We are all so cynical in Britain. Swiss people, on the other hand, are not just proud of their country, they’re proud of their canton.  Basle is a beautiful city on the river Rhine, it has theatres and galleries, functioning libraries and a very pretty town hall.

Be that as it may, it’s now time to act. At first it was just Willi who bought me ‘Basler Läckerli’, so it was easier to put on a brave face. Now whenever his friends come to visit they too bring ever larger fancy tins of the same.  The blurb on the back of one tin even celebrated the fact that this biscuit has no crunch: “why not put it in the roof of your mouth and suck it” it suggested.

Is this a biscuit for people with no teeth? I would no more suck my biscuit than put it in my tea and drink it through a straw.  If I wanted a biscuit to suck I could buy myself a Farleys rusk and even that has a crunch for heaven’s sake.  Could it just be that the‘Basler Läckerli’   is the world’s most pointless biscuit?

Lila Das Gupta

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4 Responses

  1. Our post-Mass treat was Fry’s Chocolate Cream, but for the opposite reason. I loathed it but my mother liked it, so it was a case of: “Well, if you’re not going to eat it I might as well finish it off.” Why she didn’t just buy her own bar and be done with it, goodness knows. Catholic guilt…

  2. 30 years and you want to whip out from under his feet the very basis on which this lasting friendship has developed? Can you imagine the soul searching, the questioning, the good old fashioned upset that might be caused? He’ll be casting his mind back over every feigned smile, every minute of faux ggratitiude…the dsays in driving blizzards that he went out to get you the only biscuit that would make you happy before coming over for his annual visit…..Lila, might I be so bold to ssuggest that you have to take your annual medicine…for his sake.

  3. This sounds like the ideal biscuit for people who like to dunk but don’t have the requisite mug of tea to hand.

  4. Naturally I am feeling a bit guilty Mark. Just felt I had to put a stop to the escalation.
    Fry’s Chocolate Cream, haven’t heard that for a while…my mum used to like those too along with Caramac and aniseed balls. Must be a strange Catholic thing…

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