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Bakers Iced Zoo

Sunday 6 Jul 2003

Hoorah! Springbok, Duck, Springbok, slug/whale/fox hybrid thing. Actually there was a splendid Dolphin but it got polished off very quickly by a younger member of staff. Yes this week we have returned to South Africa for our biscuit of the week again by Bakers. The evocatively titled Iced Zoo, sounding very much like the sort of crime Batman finds himself up against on a regular basis. 'Holy frozen fauna Batman' somebody's Iced the Zoo. 'Thats right Boy Wonder and they used an awful lot of food colouring in the process'.

Iced Zoo are little 57mm by 40mm sweet crisp biscuits, onto the back of which has been deposited a generous amount of highly coloured icing. On top of this sits a little white icing animal, which instantly put me in mind of those grecian freezes on Wedgwood pottery. The icing appears to employ some other ingredients apart from the obvious sugar and colour. These would appear to be sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid. This explains the light texture as the small bubbles of carbon dioxide must by caught in the sugar matrix. Also on opening the pack a sweet and slightly astringent waft of chemical biscuitry assails the nostrils. The smell is contradictory, familiar like your favourite childhood sweet shop yet foreign and strange. Overall the effect is not dissimilar to large and friendly Iced Gem.

The icing isn't afraid to use bizarre colours. For instance blue, that most unappetising of colours, suitable for vitreous enamel on bathroom suites, but not something that tends to connect the pathways from your visual cortex to your taste-buds. There also seems to be more icing towards the left hand side of the biscuit. Presumably this is where it is first applied. This would also indicate that I have the slug/whale thing upside down.

Now on to those little animals. I've never visited South Africa let alone its Zoos, so I was keen to find out what a country whose native wild life includes elephants, lions, zebras etc would be putting in its zoos. Well it looks like there are a lot of ducks banged up in South African Zoos, several gazelle based things, some monkeys, the odd dolphin, and the as yet unidentified slug/whale/fox hybrid. As our Zoos are full of South African wildlife shouldn't their Zoos be full of ours? Shouldn't there be a hedgehog enclosure, and a Pigeon and Starling avery?

Our thanks to Hal Couzens for providing us with the review pack, and if any people with good Iced Zoo experience know what the last creature is please let us know.

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Weston's Wagon Wheels

Sunday 29 Jun 2003

We don't shy away from the really controversial issues on NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown and just when it looked like the whole 'Have Wagon Wheels got smaller' thing was about die a natural and dignified death, we un-earthed our packet of Australian Wagon Wheels. Made by Weston's and with a direct blood line to our own Burton's Wagon Wheel, you may be shocked at what we found. Well not shocked, maybe just mildly surprised.

There once was a mighty biscuit baron called Garfield Weston. An entrepreneurial Canadian, he made a fortune out of supplying biscuits to the forces during the war and had a facility in Slough. Mr Weston had three sons. One son inherited the UK business, one had the Canadian, and the other Weston got Australia. Which is why in each country one can find the Wagon Wheel, that ground breaking biscuit from the 1950s. Reputed to be the brain child of Garry Weston, the UK son, they were originally sold in the UK as Weston's Wagon Wheels.

Compared to our Wagon Wheels a few striking differences are apparent (Pictured along side the UK version is at the top). The first is that these Australian Wagon Wheels are fitted with Jam as standard. The Jam is quite retro compared to the leading edge stuff in our own jammy version of the Wagon Wheel, lacking as it does glucose, glycerol and something else, I forget now. Additionally our Wagon Wheels feature simulated 'Raspberry Jam', made of course from plums. Its antipodean cousin uses apples and plums and is quite happy to use the broader moniker of 'Jam'. Also its placement is different as we'll expand on a little more in a minute.

The infamous crimped edge, casualty of the move from Slough to Llantarnam South Wales, is still here like some living fossil, an echo of a distant age of giant biscuits. As I regard its whimsical form I feel possibly like that bloke Doug McClure played in the 'Land that Time Forgot' when the Pterodactyl is going for him. Or maybe Bob Hoskins in the recent TV adaption of Conan Doyles 'The Lost World', again when the slightly more convincing, less rubbery towed on a wire Pterodactyls are going for him.

And now to the truly shocking bit. The Antipodean biscuit is packing an impressive diameter of 88mm, thats a whole 14mm bigger than our version. However the plucky Brit comes right back at its foreign cousin with a depth of approximately 15mm compared to 11mm. In fact the Aussie Wagon Wheel has some of the thinest mallow I've ever witnessed. The engineering required to produce mallow at these remarkable tolerances surely has to be a credit to Australian ingenuity. I'm sure if NASA had to produce some sort of super thin mallow based biscuit for use in space, as say a solar sail then they would be down to Oz like a shot.

The Westons Wagon Wheel lacks the deep gully round its edge familiar to us. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining its approximately 20% greater mass compared to own Wagon Wheel.

'Yes, yes, but what does it taste like?' I tend to hear you cry round about this bit of the biscuit review. Well its most definitely a Wagon Wheel. All the classic components are there, the chocolate flavoured coating, which appeared a bit darker than our own, more cocoa perhaps? There's that peculiar vaguely stale biscuit and as we have mentioned a quantity of mallow. However there is a definite difference and I think this comes mainly from the jam and its placement. In our own Wagon Wheel the jam is entirely enclosed in mallow forming a small flat central reservoir. In the Westons it is applied directly to the bottom biscuit. The result is definitely easier on the palate. I even believed at one point that I detected a Raspberry pip, even though I knew that this was just a cunning illusion woven for me by far distant jam engineers.

So now we are left wondering exactly how big a Canadian Wagon Wheel is.

Thanks once again to Simon Smith for sending us the Westons Wagon Wheels.

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Fazer Fasu Pala

Sunday 22 Jun 2003

This weeks biscuit of the week is by far and away the oddest biscuit I've ever had the privilege of sampling. Sent to us by Michael Barker a research metallurgist working in Finland, the Fasu Pala has been the pride of my biscuit collection for a couple of months since they turned up after a six week journey via post from Outokumpu Research Campus. Our recent round of media coverage has seen me pushing the Fasu Palas proudly into the lenses of several photographers and TV cameramen.

Fasu Palas are made in Finland for the Finnish home market, by Fazer now owned by Lu, but briefly part of our own United Biscuits empire. Available in a range of flavors we urged Michael to send us the most uniquely Finnish flavour which turned out to be liquorice. Apparently this is a very much a Scandinavian taste. The impressive pack looks like it draws on gothic art and heavy metal as its stylistic cues. Red and silver letters on black background, and covered in Finnish writing. The strap line at the top reads 'Maitosuklaalla Kuorrutettuja lakritsinmakuisia vohvelipaloja'. Its a wild guess that means 'Mad liquorice chocolate covered wafers', but then again it might say anything. There was also a little bit of Swedish on the pack but Michael tells me thats because some Finnish people speak Swedish, not because there is a thriving export market to Sweden.

It seemed somewhat appropriate, in a Hammer movie sort of way, that a thunder storm had gathered over NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown headquarters as my quivering hands pulled open the precious pack. Distant claps of thunder rattled around the ever darkening summer sky, as I extracted one of the small and chocolate covered curios. Expectantly I bit off half a Fasu Pala, chewed and almost instantly started laughing like a deranged man. Yes these Fasu Pala were every bit as strange as I thought they were going to be. The wafer an intricate lattice of ribbed squares gave the biscuit a very light texture which complemented the chocolate. Sandwiched in between were two layers of what can only be described as black liquorice cream/paste. What a standard Fasu Pala tastes of I have no idea, but these tasted of liquorice.

I passed one to the Wife who has a bit of a problem with liquorice ever since she tried to induce her second labour using liquorice all sorts. Biting in she instantly went into a fit of the hic cups, and ran off to make another cup of tea. I saw off several more still giggling.

Given that Santa hails from Finland, Lapland to be precise, perhaps these are his biscuit of choice. Maybe this year rather than leaving out a mince pie you might care to try a few Fasu Palas, and if you can't get those you could always strap a few liquorice all sorts to a Tunnocks wafer and see if he goes for that.

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