The Self Evident Truth Behind Cookies, Biscuits, and Scones
Composed Independence Night, after fireworks on the Fourth of July, 2017
I say, on such a day as today, a day when my Facebook fraternity become two nations divided by a common language (one set contemplating the impact of high treason and the other weighing the cost of liberty, while I myself enjoy the benefits of both), I seem to have stumbled upon a thoroughly modern answer to an age old conundrum. Namely, why do our freedom loving brothers call biscuits, cookies, and yet doubly maintain biscuit in the common parlance in order to address a scone?
In my experience this linguistic anomaly has been truly confounding for both parties and inevitably results in the cookie being declared the superior incarnation, the biscuit being dismissed as altogether too brittle, and the scone too dry, unless it has been prepared with the flair of Southern manners — as a biscuit.
Yet in discussion today, over wine, which I fairly admit often facilitates the resolution of such matters, I discovered that this phenomenon has been debated as far as the Far East. Upon polishing off a fine “B-B-Q,” in the American style, prepared by a Mandarin maiden I have designs upon, I was offered a “bisquit,” to which I remarked, “it’s funny how you call a biscuit, ‘a bisquit,’ because we Englishmen, only call a biscuit, ‘a bisquit,’ to each other when we intend to poke fun of the pompous culture under which we have become accustomed.”
“It’s one of the first English words we learn at school. It’s how I was taught to say it.” She countered.
It seemed fair to me that she were taught so, many moons ago in China, as it is spelt that way and, unless you had heard of a biscuit pronounced ‘biskit’ in England or America, there would have been no reason to suspect said cookie was not as it sounds.
“Did you know that the Americans and English can’t agree on what a biscuit or a cookie is?” I said.
“Yes, we were confused ourselves. But we concluded that it must be because a biscuit is more milk based and a cookie is more butter based.”
Which would account for the difference in texture.
“By Jove, that explains it!” I exclaimed. An immortal rationale.
So there you have it. It takes a global village. All biscuits are not created equal, but let’s be thankful that all men (and women) are, under God.
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P.P.S. In regards to cookies and biscuits, that cookies are more butter based and “English biscuits,” more milk based, and that should lead to a prominent cultural difference in a common food item, does weirdly make sense from a historical perspective.
After the Second World War, rationing was enforced in Britain which meant that butter was scarce and milk powder was the main substitute. In fact, a lot of the little cultural differences between the UK and USA, stem back to the impact of WWII and food rationing. For instance, historically, goose used to be the traditional Christmas dinner in Britain, yet nowadays, it’s turkey. That’s because in the 1950s the US sold all the left over turkeys from thanksgiving to Britain, to overcome the food shortage. It’s been our national dish for Christmas dinner, ever since. Cool, huh?
P.P.P.S. This post was inspired by some funny chats with Richard GJ, Robin S and Mischa G. And in case it bothers anyone, I don’t actually believe that women, in the last sentence, should be written in parentheses, I just wrote it like that for stylistic reasons and to maintain the allusion to the United States Declaration of Independence.