When is a Cookie not a Cookie?

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

When is a cookie not a cookie? When it is a biscuit.

It’s one of those questions that get trotted out at the end of quiz nights. What do people in England call cookies? And the answer is always biscuits. As a Brit, I’m not familiar with American biscuits, but they look very pleasant indeed and I’m planning on making some. And some of the cookie recipes I’ve seen on North American websites are definitely worth trying. However, a biscuit in the UK isn’t always a biscuit.

Sometimes it’s just a biscuit. A rich tea biscuit, a nice biscuit (yes, it’s a thing if you haven’t seen one – it’s sugared and has coconut), a digestive biscuit, are all equivalent to cookies. But the name for a chocolate chip cookie in the British supermarket is… a chocolate chip cookie. And Oreos are the same all over the world.

Photo by Anisa Mustafa on Unsplash and a great illustration of a chocolate digestive

Part of the problem is the British habit of theft and assimilation. For example, when there was a vote to find Britain’s favourite food, the winner was Chicken Tikka Masala – wonderfully flavourful curry. I don’t think that anyone on the Indian subcontinent would recognise it as real food, but it’s incredibly British, popular and deeply steeped of the tradition of stealing recipes from everywhere and then altering them just enough to confuse the original cooks. Someone, somewhere, took the recipe for chocolate chip cookies from the US and never bothered renaming them. I don’t think that I’ve seen a mainstream recipe site based in the UK without a chocolate chip cookie recipe, often next to a recipe for a ginger nut.

Cookies and Carburettors is set in North Wales, just outside Wrexham and I thought I’d share a few notes. The first item in those notes is that some biscuits are cookies. Then again, some biscuits are biscuits and sometimes a ginger nut is just a small, sweet, spicy snack. I’ll stick to sensible names as much as possible, like lemon fingers and melting moments.

Following on from that, you won’t see a lot of traditional Welsh baking. There’ll be a few mentions, but I assume that Mari (who is not much older than me) will be the same as anyone else in the area and look for recipes in cookbooks, magazines and online. A few local favourites may crop up like Welsh cakes and teisen lap but Mari is more likely to try out recipes seen on The Great British Bake Off than look in old recipe books.

Photo by Llio Angharad on Unsplash
Welsh cakes like the delicious ones above are something to be treasured

Another note – you will not see the author’s version of any recipe. I can’t cook. I’ll put a few links in if people are interested, but I’m not going to fake being competent in a kitchen. I’m not so much an inspiration as a bad example.

A final note about language. English is almost as adaptable as British cooking. The people in North Wales speak Welsh and English, using British English conventions and I’ll be using British English throughout. If you have any questions about usage, I’ll be happy to answer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.