The Illustrious Biscuit (or cookie)



Next time you’re dunking your favourite biscuit into your tea, stop and take a moment to reflect on this humble bit of crumbly goodness.

It turns out, much to Book and Kitchen’s delight, that the very word biscuit has it’s roots in Ancient Rome where the term “bis coctus” (Latin for “twice baked”) was bandied around in army camps where the, possibly a tad dry, overcooked bits of bread formed part of official rations.

The biscuit never looked back. Over the ages it has taken on all sorts of shapes and sizes, from delicate and sophisticated french tulles to chunky wagon wheels.  It’s alter ego is the cookie (from the Dutch word “Koekje” meaning small cake). 

In the literary world, it plays a starring role in Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’.  Referred to as the “episode of the madeleine’, this wistful passage is a wonderful description of the pleasures of biscuit eating.

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

At Book and Kitchen the latest creation to be enjoyed is a Cardamom, Vanilla and Dibis* Cookie (see photo).  A crumbly biscuit laced with trade wind spices and a hint of natural sweetness.  Enjoys being eaten on its own but equally is partial to a good dunk in a cup of tea.

*Dibis, the Arabic word for date syrup originates from Iraq. It is traditionally and still can be used as a dip for bread, mixed with yogurt and other cream based products and as an alternative natural sweetener. We love it on ice cream. It can be used in a variety of ways and has numerous nutritional benefits.