Monthly Archives: August 2009

Biscuit Best Of: the definitive guide

Biscuits have been an important part of my life since childhood. Many significant chapters in my life have featured them in a supporting role.

One early memory involves me wondering whether or not to ask my mum for another before dinner. The moment I seized that first unsanctioned biscuit was the moment I established my independence and free-thinking vis à vis the baked delicacy. From then on, I would decide whether it was too close to dinner time, too soon after dinner, too early or too late for some twice-baked action.

When I made my virgin forays into illicit underage nights out and binge drinking, my buttery friends were there at the end of the night to prolong the evening and, importantly, to soak up the excess booze. Since then, they have also been there for the hangovers.

When I left home and went to work in France, biscuits gave me a cultural reference point and an emotional anchor. The exciting new varieties on the wrong side of La Manche provided me with an excuse to test them all, as well as two stones’ worth of cold comfort from my homesickness. I sampled every strain and specimen I could find with an almost scientific commitment.

Such experience in the biscuit field would hold me in good stead when, years later, I returned to France and impressed new friends with my extensive knowledge. I was a biscuit sommelier, albeit a low-rent one: warning friends to avoid certain types after a heavy meal, presenting the most delicious and upmarket varieties with a flourish, advising on the best brands for dunking, recommending superior hangover crutches. Lasting friendships were built on such crumby foundations. However, friendships have also been strained by this oral fixation. My generosity with my gear has resulted in more than one addiction, and hooked friends have despaired as their need got out of control and their chins multiplied.

The people I meet are always incredulous at my capacity for cookie munching any time, anywhere. I can be sick or tired, feeling fat or thin, celebrating or commiserating, and a biscuit will always seem appropriate. As social smokers need a fag as soon as they have a pint in their hands, so I find it difficult to drink tea without a biscuit chaser. I’ll admit it – sometimes I don’t even feel like a cup of tea. The tea is the vehicle that makes another biscuit seem more socially acceptable.

I have found that, for many, many people, particularly southerners, biscuits have never featured heavily in their lives. It seems to be a northern vice (like tea with flavour). I on the other hand think about biscuits more or less constantly and regulate my intake in certain situations so as not to get a reputation as a biscuit whore. Sooner or later though, my addiction becomes common knowledge and people look to me for a sugar hit. So, if you’re feeling peckish and like a list, have this one on me: my biscuit top ten (subject to change depending on what is my flavour – read obsession – of the month).

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Food flirts in St Pancras

Commuting has a bad rep, but it’s not the journey that bothers me; it’s the destination. Once the rush to the train platform is over and I’m snugly and smugly on board, I can just relaaax until we pull into St Pancras. For me, it’s not the obstacle of getting to the capital that makes commuting difficult. It’s making it from train to tube without temptation leading me astray…

Every morning I walk briskly through the light-filled atrium of the main station, shoulders hunched into makeshift blinkers, eyes riveted to the ground, trying to ignore the smells of coffee and croissants emanating from warmly lit faux-rustique bakeries. I don’t even drink coffee! It’s just that smell… Every morning, the voice in my head suggests ‘how about a croissant?’ as if it were a novel idea. The puritanical and rational part of my brain rolls its eyes mockingly as I push on. Then it turns on me: ‘ooh, that place over there does healthy fruit salad…’. I pick up my pace and fix my eyes on the clock above the entrance to the underground station. No time. Must get to work. Under no circumstances must I dither. Normally I stay on track for the tube.

But if, God forbid, nature calls, right there in the station, she inevitably delivers me into the clutches of fate.

To get to the toilets in St Pancras, you almost have to walk back to where you came from. They really are a surprisingly long distance from the main station. It seems they were put there just so that more cafés could be created to pave the way. As you round the corner, the far-off toilet sign at last hazy on the artificial horizon, you are confronted with one of the stations’s biggest challenges. Enfin…Paul.

Café Paul, St Pancras

'Paul? C'est toi?'

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Hors d’oeuvres

Well, being an extrovert, you’d have thought I’d have jumped straight onto the blogging bandwagon when is passed by some years back. In fact, despite working in new media, I’m quite the technophobe. Add to this my commitment issues with a regular writing gig (an odd phobia for a trained journalist to harbour) and perhaps you’ll see why I’ve hung back from the crowd – until now. But hey, I’ve always been a late starter, so now that blogs are deemed passé (yes, get me, I am bi-lingual), I’m going to give it a shot.

So, I’m a greedy twenty-something girl whose stomach rules the rest of her body and soul. If I’m happy, I congratulate myself with a little something. If I’m bored, I liven things up with a biscuit medley and a cup of tea. If I’m sad, I make cathartic chocolate brownies, faintly salted with tears. If I’m ill, I eat through it. I work in the food industry, cook up a storm in my tiny, ill-equipped kitchen and write a mean recipe. I’ve got a Spanish boyfriend who is my biggest – and fullest – fan, and whose tortilla still beats mine, grrr. And here I’m going to write about my obsession with food and anything else that occurs to me while I’m on the subject. I might even get round to writing down a recipe or two, or describing gastronomic jaunts and favourite foodie haunts. If you don’t like food, you’re in the wrong place. 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