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Custard Cream Review
I live in France. On the whole it's a good place but when it comes to tea and biscuits the country has really let itself down and has much to learn about both. This means that I have to go to the British section of the local supermarket to stock up which gets me funny looks by other people in the shop. The other day however, I was chuffed to bits when I saw a shipment of Custard Creams had come in and that I could buy a double pack for one Euro which I thought was a bargain. I bought 2 packs and headed home to the kettle immediately.
Initially I ate only about 3 but this soon became 6 in only a few minutes causing Mrs Wife to impose sanctions and hide them (oddly in jar marked "Chocolat" so I found them immediately). But then a funny thing happened. About twenty minutes later while working at my computer, I suddenly came
over all drowsy and then nodded off completely. I don't do the most interesting job in the world but I can usually stay awake. I didn't think too much about it until I was watching a Bond film on Sunday afternoon with a big cup of lovely proper English Tea and 4 custard creams. I never saw the end of the film because I fell asleep again. Today, I had more custard creams in the afternoon (Mrs Wife couldn't see how many I had but I did the biscuit eating world proud) and about 45 minutes later I fell asleep again - for an hour! This was very unusual for me and has led me to believe that I have unearthed a useful sedative property of the mainstay that is the Custard Cream. I was so pleased with my discovery that I grabbed the pack for more information and found that I had eaten Parkside Custard Creams. Some interweb research informs me that this means that they've come from Lidl. So, now I'm wondering if any of your readers have experienced the same thing with Lidl biscuits? Having read stories on your site of people having sleepless nights over tea and biscuit related issues, this could be
the answer they've been waiting for. Those genius biscuit makers. Whatever will they think of next?
All the best
|Nicey replies: Joe,
First well done on living in France. I always think that most of things we British do in France, including living in it, come as a bit of a surprise to it. They perform a useful service, helping to keep the whole place on its toes rather than sinking into a Gallic drowse. Drinking tea absolutely anywhere other than in a Salon de The seems to do the trick. Certainly striding around with a big enamel mug of the stuff a couple of fig rolls always gets me noticed. Having just got back from a few days over there, I have to say making French things into curries also gives me an overwhelming sense of 'France wasn't expecting that'.
So on those Custard Creams. Indeed they emanate from Lidls and therefore were probably made by United Biscuits, (McVities/Crawfords/Jacobs). As such Lidls wouldn't have much to do with their specification apart from a price-point. I suspect that you may be experiencing some effect caused by eating them in France. Perhaps your British metabolism is going into some sort of hibernation state. This could be due to the stress of having to eat all that semi-raw meat, heavy sauces and sharp jabby pointy crusty bread. Having at last had some proper tea and biscuits perhaps you body is trying to conserve these precious resources by entering a torpid resting phase.
Happily the advice would seem to be to eat ore of them till you get used to them again.
Custard Cream Review
Like the sound of the Credit Crunch biscuit idea. It could be made more authentic by selling it at normal pack price but then reducing the price over the following couple of weeks until consumer nervousness results in a limited edition rescue package being launched. Do you think the government would step in as readily should McVities or Fox’s become in danger of going under as they have done with the banking sector? I rather think not, however, the average Brit would probably just as concerned with a lack of Hob Nobs as they would with their savings being in danger....or is that just me?
|Nicey replies: Hello Jim,
Surely biscuits can ride out the consumer downturn. We have heard it widely reported that McVities are selling more Custard Creams than this time last year as people downsize from more extravagant biscuits. Personally I think this is terrific news. Obviously people have been buying biscuits beyond their means on credit for the last several years, where as now they are making wiser and more sustainable biscuit decisions.
|Richard and Sue Knight
Custard Cream Review
|Hi Nicey & Wifey|
I just wanted to tell you about the 'biscuit club' we hold on a Friday evening in the snug at The Horse & Groom pub in Linby, nr Nottingham. It all started about 9 months ago when my wife accidentally told one of the other snugglers (snug regulars) that I had once created a spoof website dedicated to Custard Creams (my favourite biscuits). Incidentally, it was whilst researching for this website, about 7 years ago, that I first came across your own fabulous website which has gone from strength to strength.
Said snuggler arrived one Friday evening and as he walked in, threw a large packet of Sainsbury's custard creams at me, fortunately the alcohol had sharpened my senses and I was able to catch the packet of biscuits and prevent any major damage from befalling them.
I found myself to be the centre of attention at this point and had to explain to the assembled masses exactly what you could put on a 'custard cream' website. I told them about the fun our group, who became nicknamed "The Biscuit Boys", had at work, trying the huge variety of different makes, and in particular finding out about the 'other' uses for custard creams such as building blocks, dominoes, skittles etc and about how you could make useful articles such as a tea pot stand from said biscuits.
The evening finished with the landlord of the establishment rolling a barrel shaped measure off the bar onto a table below and trying to knock down as many of the biscuit 'skittles' as he could. For some unknown reason it was decided that we should form a biscuit club and somehow I ended up as chairman or "chair biscuit" as I prefer to be known.
Since then we have had over 30 meetings where we bring along assorted packets of biscuits which we all try and then vote on our favourite which is declared biscuit of the week. We have also had a few 'special' evenings including a cheese night, a cold cooked meats night and a sausage night and we are planning a "Puddings you can eat with custard" night in the near future.
One of the highlights of our evenings had been the ongoing saga of the Jaffa Cake which has led to many alcohol fuelled discussions taking place, but for me the absolute crowning glory was when the wife and I walked in one Friday evening to find everyone eagerly awaiting us as the Landlady had a presentation to make. Imagine my delight when I was presented with a copy of your excellent book which they had come across whilst on holiday. This tome has become the club bible and is called upon (usually without any great success) to settle any arguments over the provenance of any particular item brought along as a 'Biscuit'.
Although I had told the other members about your website I had not visited for quite some time but have now renewed my acquaintance with it and as you may see, signed up for the newsletter. I am now wondering if you would like to put a feature about our 'Biscuit Club' on your website to encourage other biscuit aficionados to form similar groups and would be willing to provide any information, pictures etc to facilitate this. Or maybe you could even start a sister site, "A Nice Pint of Beer, a Sit Down and a Biscuit". Maybe CAMRA would be interested in some sort of sponsorship deal.
Keep up the good work.
Richard & Sue Knight
|Nicey replies: Hi Richard & Sue Knight,
I'm very pleased that we have contributed in some way to your very civilised sounding biscuit and booze rituals, even if we haven't sorted out your disputes.
As for News Letters we haven't done one in forever, but since then I have created a new and mighty newsletter engine for the day job and have been toying with the idea of firing it up on NCOTAASD so you never know!
Custard Cream Review
Can you help out where McVities/United Biscuits have failed us so miserably (see below)?
We think that due to the baroque design and the required manufacturing capabilities it must be somewhere round the turn of the centaury in Northern England. Both wikipedia and Google have let us down as well you are our last hope!
Thank you for your enquiry and apologies for the delay in our reply. We have received some information from our Press Office and Brand Teams at HO, as follows; Crawford's made shortbread from the early 1900's, but unfortunately no date remains for Custard Creams.
Sorry we have been able to assist with your enquiry on this occasion.
|Nicey replies: Well we are not entirely sure, but I did take part in a TV program for ITV about the custard cream and learned a few new interesting facts.
The baroque markings are in-fact Victorian fern fronds which were in vogue in the latter half of the 19th century. The Victorians were also very keen on puddings and the new eggless Birds Custard powder introduced in the mid 19th Century was being referenced in the Custard Cream.
We believe that the Custard Cream was probably more likely Huntley & Palmers (Reading) rather than Peek Frean (Bermondsey South London) as Peek Frean claim that their first cream sandwich biscuit was the Bourbon, which seems to date more recently than the Custard Cream. Another company who dates from the same period and with a long association with the Custard Cream is Crawfords, now part of United Biscuits. Its entirely possible that it was indeed Crawfords who produced the Custard Cream, they were based in Edinburgh but opened a new factory in Liverpool in 1897. This is about the time the Bourbon was introduced (1910) which indicates that the mechanisation required to produce a sandwich cream on an industrial scale was in existence.
So none the wiser really. As you can tell from your reply from United Biscuits this stuff is not easy to discern.
Custard Cream Review
|As a longtime devotee of the classic Custard Cream biscuit, I was intrigued to find a recipe by Nigella Lawson for making your own. She has published this recipe in the Valentine's section of her book 'Feast' and urges you to make them in kitchy heart shapes. Unable to resist a challenge, I have made a batch and can report that they are every bit as nice as bought custard creams - maybe even nicer because you can put in as much cream filling as you like!|
I am attaching a picture for your perusal.
|Nicey replies: And you did all that without mentioning Valentines Day (actually you did, and so did I now).|