‘NOW THAT REALLY TAKES THE BISCUIT’*

*What to say if you are completely flabbergasted by something.

ie ‘Mrs Cardigan just took the last biscuit without even asking if the entire room would mind or not. How completely shocking! Now that really takes the biscuit.’

And that LITERALLY does actually take the biscuit. So there we all are then.

———-

I should make it clear I’m not talking about American biscuits that you eat in the South with gravy. (Although they are amazing and probably the most filling thing I’ve ever consumed.)

These are the kind of biscuits I’m talking about:

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They come in a packet, you can put them in your tin and store them in the cupboard for the next hundred years if you so choose.

A biscuit is primarily for dunking in your cuppa. The trick is to get the timing right so your biscuit is moist but it’s not disintegrated into complete mush. You really need to get your 10,000 hours dipping practice in before you really ever master it. I’m not sure there’s anything really worse than when half your biscuit falls into your tea.

(Apart from when you drop your whole biscuit, boiling tea splashes everywhere, burns your knee and spills over someone else’s new carpet – which is for some reason always a shade of beige lighter than how you take your tea. So really try and avoid doing that if you can.)

But, let’s get deadly serious here for a minute.

A cautionary note on biscuit tin use: The minute you put biscuits in a tin they are now communal SOCIAL BISCUITS. These are different to regular biscuits. Now you can ONLY eat them when you have a cup of tea.

If you’re eating them straight from the packet generally they are just for you. These are ASOCIAL BISCUITS and you can eat them however you like – cram them in four at a time whilst crying etc.

(But as a general rule you want your asocial biscuits to have chocolate or caramel on them because otherwise literally what’s the point you might as well binge-inhale sawdust.)

Tin biscuits exist as a socially acceptable way to engage in an excessive group-snack gossip.

You must offer them to guests when you offer a cup of tea and then proceed to eat as many as you want and then when they’re all gone you can be like:

‘Oh dear my biscuit tin is empty – what will I offer my guests?’ Then you buy more.

When offered a biscuit tin you want to be sure to make the right choice with only an acceptable amount of dithering. (I am continually guilty of biscuit-dithering.)

So I present to you – the ultimate guide for getting into the high-stakes world of biscuit tin politics. Picking the wrong one can be catastrophic.

TIPS FOR NAVIGATING A BISCUIT TIN

CHOCOLATE BOURBON:

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This is probably my spirit biscuit. If there are any left by the time the tin gets round to you – grab immediately. Especially if I am there. I say this as a courtesy because when we’re in the room you’re on your own.

A very popular option despite not actually being alcoholic – and in fact the main social crossover biscuit. You can eat these whenever. Scientifically proven as the perfect size to eat four at a time and the chocalatey ‘sandwich-filler’ bit inside is designed to melt at exactly the right ratio in tea.  But you actually won’t be able to stop eating them forever. Until you move to Los Angeles and you discover what a Nilla wafer is.

DIGESTIVE BISCUITS:

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Choose if you want to stay ultra classic. They come plain, (THE WORST) chocolate (THE BEST) or chocolate and caramel (THE BEST EVER.) You digest them the same way as other biscuits but you just end up thinking about it slightly more.

CUSTARD CREAMS:

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These are like vanilla versions of bourbons. You can’t see it here- but they follow a similar sandwich structure.Very popular choice. They don’t really taste like custard or like cream, but if you imagine something exactly in the middle of those two tastes and then add a third part neutral – then that is exactly what they taste like. It’s really good. Trust me.

PARTY RINGS:

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You can’t go wrong with this choice. But these are usually only out on special occasions ie Your birthday when you were six. And they won’t be around for long. And you won’t be around for long after you’ve eaten some – because you will be PARTYING! ie zooming around hyped up on chemicals and sugar. Which will be THE BEST and then quite soon after THE WORST. Highly recommended.

RICH TEA BISCUITS:

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These are snobby biscuits that come with specific instructions. They feel fairly demanding and narrow-minded to me – like they wouldn’t be fun at parties. They are the plainest biscuits you have ever encountered and you should handle with caution. Heed the name. Eaten dry they will give you a bad case of cactus mouth.

GARIBOLDI:

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Those are raisons not chocolate chips. ABORT, ABORT.

HOB NOBS:

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Biscuits specifically for hob-nobbing. Which is causal chit-chat. Not what you were thinking a minute ago is it? But I’m sure they’d be good in any situation. They work across a large range of activities. Though I will say that you really have to chew these. Like, every mouthful your jaw is going to get in some serious cardio. So in reality they do make polite, casual chit-chat a bit more challenging. But hey, why not live on the edge.

MALTED MILK:

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Really not a lot to say about them except they are going to dissolve in your tea at lightning fast speed and without tea they’re fairly pointless. They’re the background filler of the tin. If you get one it’s fine. If you don’t it’s fine and you might feel a bit cheated but then when you have one you’ll remember that you weren’t. You’re going to end up scooping out major biscuit mush out of cups when you do the washing up and was it really all worth it? Where has your life gone? Exactly. They’re comforting and they have a picture of a cow on them to assure you they are wholesome which is sort of fine. Mostly they’re just fine.

NICE BISCUITS:

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Biscuits that are very quintessentially British in that they have a casually defeatist attitude towards describing themselves. ‘Please don’t expect me to be fantastic. I’m just sort of nice.’  It’s kind of like onomatopoeia for biscuits. Sort of. Is it? Not really. But here comes the sad predictable irony of life – they aren’t really THAT nice. A bit like Ferrero Rocher. Doesn’t live up to the hype. When it actually comes down to it a bit too saw-dusty. For me the word ‘nice’ has become  onomatopoeic for the feeling of mild disappointment.  Oh, you think I’m ‘nice’? That’s the best adjective you have for blanket-coating my entire personality?  Well. Thank-you so much for comparing me to a slightly dissatisfying biscuit. 

JAMMIE DODGERS:

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Pretty fun to say. If someone calls you a ‘Jammie Dodger’ it means you’re a bit of a sly, fun one who gets out of trouble. They’re the young celebs of the snack-world. Jammie Dodger biscuits are slick and do advertising the right way. They do have jam in them, and you are going to love it. You can’t accuse them of  not living up to the hype.  In fact this is really much closer to biscuit onomatopoeia. Wait. What? Or is that just accurate description of a biscuit in picture form. Yes it is, I’m getting confused again. Jam doesn’t make a noise. (Sadly) 

FIG ROLLS:

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I couldn’t possibly not include fig rolls. They are big contenders in the tin. But as I write this – it’s very unclear to me not just to whether it’s a biscuit, but if it is anything at all and just defies categorization. But then you couldn’t really describe it as a roll either. This is opening up a much larger debate. This deserves a whole entry to itself. If not – a whole website. In fact, I find myself beginning to question my whole existence.

Afterthought: I think a fig roll is definitely my spirit biscuit.

THE KATE MIDDLETON COMPLEX

(Or how Kate Middleton has affected my printing expenditure since I moved to LA)

People here always tell me I sound classy. Or that they’ve suddenly jumped into a BBC documentary. Or Downton Abby. For a few glorious seconds people hear my accent and they think I might be sophisticated – that I might be the type to nibble on crumpets with the Duchess of Pirouettes and the Earl of Please-pass-the-butter-again without knocking over the teapot. (Yes.That was the exact wording of their thoughts.)Then they know me for a few more. Seconds, that is. Because how exactly are you meant to eat egg and soldiers without throwing most of it down your front? I didn’t classically train in ballet.

When the bar is set to someone who is sincerely rocking THIS hat:

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you might as well just hand cards out that say ‘I will disappoint you.’

(I would probably drop them all on the floor.) Can you imagine – someone coming to help you reorganise your disappointment pre-warning cards? ‘Oh, terribly sorry I would give you one but I think they’ve become a bit redundant’ *Nervous Laughter* No response. *Hand self a card*

So cheers Kate. Nice one.  It’s fine if you are a MAGICAL SWAN-BEING NOT OF THIS EARTH or you know, married to a Prince.

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Casual.

I just tried to do a Queen-wave and poked myself in the eye. I’ll go print some more cards.

If you read the small print on my cards it will warn you that when I get over-excited in meetings talking about something I inadvertently fling my pen across the room. So sorry if my pen hits you in the face. It’s only because I’m having a fantastic time with you.

People in the UK were pretty disconcerted with my over-excited hand-talking. So you can imagine the reaction I get here when I’m meant to be at the Shakespeare opera with my Butler and Benedict Cumberbatch quibbling over whether or not it’s meant to rain later on.

Crowd using umbrellas at Queen's diamond jubilee, 5 June 2012

(It will)

So okay the thing about talking about the weather is true. And the stuff about the actual weather. And so I also love Shakespeare. But I don’t have a butler, okay!

Apart from my imagination Butler who I can blame things on. ‘Oh Cuthbert you’ve spilt the tea all over me again! You shouldn’t do your penguin walk when you’re carrying hot liquids – what have I told you? You’re such a disappointment.'(I’m not that harsh. I even let him wear cravats on the weekends.)

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And while we’re on the subject. Of tea. Keep up. Tea trumps a cravat segue. Just. It’s my favourite and most preferred British person stereotype. It’s about the single BEST and truly magical thing across the entirety of existence, and you know, somewhat accurate.

So when you meet me go ahead and think TEA and DISAPPOINTMENT and cravats if you want, but just not sophistication.

In the meantime, I’m forwarding Kate my printing expenses.