Have your biskut, and eat it too…
Greatly undervalued food, salty, immaculate, crispy, or sweet, biscuits are forever
Ratna Raman Delhi
I love biscuits. I always have and always will. They are greatly undervalued food. Providing small, portable units of energy, they have transformed us into a nation of biscuit-eaters on the move. I think it is time we factored in biscuits as a nutrient-dense, vacuum-packed, high-protein snack, ensuring optimal food quality for all Indians.
Sometimes, I idly wonder, whether French history would have been different had the executed Marie Antoinette said, "Let them have biscuits." Her choice of the word "cake" precipitated an extremely unfortunate conclusion. If only she had settled for the word 'biscuit' she might have lived to a ripe old age and Cordon Blue chefs in France would have marketed authentic Marie Antoinette biscuits from their stash of secret recipes. (Of course, this would have done Madame Tussaud out of a future in waxworks, but Amitabh, Shahrukh and other celebrities would definitely have shouldered this blow for the sake of the larger biscuit-inclined collective.) Maybe, just maybe, instead of those bland Marie biscuits that are a constant reminder to frugality and stoicism in the wake of cholesterol and diabetes, the Antoinette biscuits might have transported us to a whole new realm.
All over India, whether it is the smallest teashop in the bustling plains or the remote one tucked away somewhere in the hills, biscuits (pronounced bis-kut in the north and bis-ket in the south) form part of essential morning breakfast and evening tea rituals. Whether branded or made locally, biscuits continue to beckon from the insides of glass, and now large plastic jars, and from behind wrapped packages. In the Indian context, our biscuit legacy probably comes from Great Britain. Biscuits are perhaps the parting culinary gift that the British left behind. When we were little, and lived in Delhi's Karol Bagh of the 1960s and 1970s, our favourite haunts were two confectioner's shops on nearby Saraswati Marg. One shop sported the name Britannia and the other announced itself as Volga. The owner of Volga was an exceedingly handsome young man who made the double thumb famous in our childhood, long before Hritik Roshan's twin thumbs became Bollywood lore.
We visited Volga primarily to gawk in prepubescent adoration at the young man in question. The bulk of our confectionary was bought at Britannia, possibly because of subliminal associations and also because the portly, middle-aged owner of Britannia had an infinitely larger display of glass jars and glass cabinets, crammed with all kinds of biscuits. The jars ranged on the counters were filled to the brim with plain biscuits, plain rusks, delectable penny biscuits, animal-shaped biscuits, jam-filled centres, biscuits embellished with pistas or peanuts, cake rusks, macaroons, cream puffs and sweet wafers in all the pastel colours imaginable, all meticulously balanced in symmetrical circles.