Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Biscuit Greatness

Not only has he done it again, he’s showing off to boot. I posted 488 words on the sometimes fraught relationship between chocolate digestives and Michael Parkinson, only for Stephen Fry to come along and slap 5000 words down on the counter and tell us to keep the change. His post is proof, as if proof were needed, that rarely have the words ‘insufferable’ and ‘know-it-all’ formed such a perfectly conjoined alliance.

Another display of Fry’s wordiness has galvanised me into action. Slipping the belt through the loops of my trousers this morning, I decided that I too would be wordy for a change. I would write something intelligent, something impossible not to read. My words would be sent across the globe as people acknowledges this as one of the blog posts of the year. It was only a matter of finding a topic that could attract a decent readership.

‘Why don’t you write about biscuits,’ said Judy from beneath the kitchen sink. ‘You’re always going on about them.’

‘Am I?’ I replied, watching her unscrew the pipe from the leaking plughole. ‘I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed. Although, now I think about it, I’ve been meaning to write something about custard creams. I often wonder if it’s really custard and why I can’t just buy the cream to save me the trouble of scraping it from between those rather disappointing layers of biscuit.’

The drain clanked and Judy appeared, a greased delight with just a whiff of detergent.

‘I think that’s what you should do that right now, Richard,’ she said, coolly. I think she really meant it.

Only now that I’m sitting here, with my ankles high on my office desk and a custard cream in my hand, I’m finding it a bit hard going. Once you get down to it, there’s not much you can say about a custard cream. As much as I wanted this post to be a succinct thought experiment dedicated to the nature of Britain’s favourite biscuit, it threatens to become a minor treatise on how little there is to say on the subject. Even Wikipedia has a limited article on our nation's most loved biscuit.

At this point, a lesser man would have given up or chosen to waffle on about iPhones or his trip across America. But I’m not a lesser man. I pulled a few strings, set my team of researchers into action, and I think we’ve got a few interesting facts for you.

Did you know that the custard cream was invented in 1902 by Gerald Crumb, an ironic name, I know, but a man with a lifetime’s devotion to the fixing of highly-flavoured creams between biscuit layers? The design on the custard cream has never changed in all the years it has been a staple diet to old ladies, doctors, and priests. The detail is taken from the tomb of St. Gurnisaple, the patron saint of snacks (yes, there really is one if you check your Dictionary of Saints). The design contains bristles (some think they’re ferns but they are actually bristles) that represent Gurnisaple’s conversion to savoury foods during his commune with a hedgehog possessed by the spirit of the Lord.

In the last century, the custard cream has figured in some important moments in world history. It is the only biscuit to have been salvaged from the wreck of the Titanic, and a plate of them sat between Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt at Yalta. If you’ve read your Warren Commission lately, you’ll also remember that crumbs from custard creams were found in the pocket of J. Harvey Oswald and beneath the window of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. Some say that custard creams prove there was no conspiracy. Others say that custard creams are where the conspiracy begins. We may never know, but whether it’s their status as the snack of choice within Columbian drug cartels or the national symbol of the Dutch East Indies, custard creams remain the world’s most celebrated biscuit.

So, there you have it. It might only be a mere thousand words but this is probably the best potted history of the custard cream you’re likely to find on the Internet. At this point, Stephen Fry would still be only taking his second breath and you’d have another four thousand words to get through. I’ve done my work a fifth of the time. Stitch that, Stephen!


Lord Jerk-Higham said...

Deeply profound tome, Richard - can something be deeply profound? I trust so.

elberry said...

i prefer gingernuts.

Trixy said...

It's quality, not quantity, Richard. And now I feel I know all I need to know about the custard cream. What would I need with another 4000 words?

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