One of the things that makes traveling in Britain so tricky for the US visitor is the language difference. One quickly gets used to calling an elevator a lift, but recognizing that what they call the first floor is what we would call the second floor is a bit trickier. Saying “pants” for “trousers” is mildly embarrassing, but don’t, no matter what else you do, call that purse that straps around your waist a “fanny pack”. Thank you, LL Bean, for the term “lumbar pack”.
Then there are biscuits. The English do not have what we in the US call biscuits. They have scones, much better than the scones we can get here in the US even before you slather them with clotted cream, and scones go quite well with tea, but I can’t see serving scones with ham and red eye gravy along with the breakfast eggs. In fact, I tried to explain to our traveling companions of last year what a US biscuit is, by describing it as a scone made without the sugar and egg. Put that way, however, it doesn’t sound delicious, it sounds nasty.
No, what the English mean by “biscuit” is what we here call cookies. We do use the word for one kind of cookie, called a tea biscuit, but that’s about it. English cookies strike me as all being a lot like our tea biscuits: small, less sweet than US cookies, and kind of crispy.
What I discovered on my recent trip, however, is that the British have discovered cookies, those big (4” in diameter or more), sweet, soft, chocolate chip or white chocolate and macadamia or cranberry and oatmeal cookies that are the staple of every US shopping mall food court, and what’s more, they call them cookies. They still have their biscuits, of course, but the cookies are showing up in coffee shops, tea shops and restaurants, especially the restaurants you can find at tourist attractions like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace.
I hate that we USians are exporting our worst food habits. Our better food habits (in my opinion), like crushed ice in drinks or the McIlhenny Company’s many tasty Tabasco seasonings, don’t seem to have made a dent in the old country, but our 1200 calorie meals and soup plate sized snacks have. Lord help us all.
On the other hand, if US cookies have made their way across the pond, can US biscuits be far behind? Not that they are any healthier, but I miss them when I’m over there. No matter how tasty the English scone is, you need a real biscuit to sop up gravy, like the gravy they serve with Sunday roast. There is a place for the US biscuit in England, I know there is.
But what will they call it?