As the original Digestive biscuit celebrates its 125th birthday this year, we crunch over some other biccy favourites that have stood the test of time
When the biscuit tin does the rounds, we love to umm and ahh about which one to choose (only one?) But really, most of us have a secret favourite that we’ll turn to time and again to hit the spot, whether you’re a Garibaldi girl or a Fig Roll fanatic.
And it’s these perennial favourites that have unsurprisingly stood the test of time, seeing us through decades worth of family get-togethers, work tea breaks, personal crises and even wars. So this year, as the humble Digestive biscuit marks its 125th anniversary, we wanted to celebrate all the veteran biscuits that we love just as much today as our grandmas did.
We’ve been munching on biscuits right back to the Middle Ages but it was the 19th Century that gave us some of the classics we still crunch on today, including the Garibaldi in 1861. Created by biscuit manufacturers Huntley & Palmers and named after the Italian general, Giuseppe Garibaldi, who made a successful visit to England in 1854, the currant-filled Garibaldi quickly became popular – despite earning the unfortunate nickname of the ‘squashed fly biscuit’.
Digestives then changed the biscuit game for good when they arrived in 1892, invented by two Scottish doctors and containing sodium bicarbonate to help digestion. With their sweet, nutty taste and tea-dunking prowess, nothing could quite surpass them – that is until someone had the ingenious idea of smothering one side in chocolate in 1925.
Today, around 80 million packs of McVitie’s Digestives are sold every year and word has it they nearly even split up the biggest band in history, The Beatles, when Yoko Ono once helped herself to George Harrison’s pack of Digestives leading to a huge bust-up between George and John Lennon.
Strong feelings about Digestives aside, this staid, reliable biccy soon faced stiff competition from the likes of Rich Tea, the malt and wheat biscuit first created in Yorkshire as a light snack between meals. Over the years, it’s gained quite a famous following including Terry Wogan who called them ‘the Lord of all biscuits’ and Prince William who had a wedding cake made of 1,700 Rich Tea biscuits.
But Rich Tea aren’t the only ones with royal connections. The Bourbon was originally called the Creola until Peek Frean, the company who manufactured it, decided it would sound posher if they named it after the European royal House of Bourbon, hinting at some (made-up) mysterious link to a decadent, gilded past.
Speaking of decadence, custard creams have long been the most luxurious biscuit around with its swirling baroque lattice pattern on top and vanilla fondant inside. We love them, although some people consider them the poor, anaemic relation to the Bourbon.
Another cornerstone of our childhood packed lunches was the Jacob’s Club biscuit, available in orange, chocolate, fruit and mint flavours. Almost more memorable than the taste was the long-running advert telling us ‘If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit, join our club’.
And who could forget the Jammie Dogder, brilliantly named after Roger the Dodger from The Beano comics? The heady mix of sugar-sprinkled shortbread and sweet raspberry jam with a heart on top, was a sure recipe for success (and hyperactive children).
The ones we loved and lost
No Seventies coffee morning was complete without McVitie’s Gipsy Creams, practically indestructible by man or tea. Killed off sometime in the 2000s, there have been whispers about bringing them back.
For when we couldn’t decide whether we wanted sweets, chocolate or biscuits (a daily drama!) we could have all three in the form of a United Biscuit – milk chocolate flavoured coated biscuit with candy crisp in a stripy football-themed wrapper.
Lincoln biscuits, with their shortcake pattern of raised dots in concentric circles, were often called Lincoln Creams, despite containing no cream whatsoever! Missing for a while, there are now online campaigns to bring them back.