December 2013 finds me in USA heading south. Plans seem to have evaporated and I’m taking off on my own to explore – a hire-car, an open road and a Sat Nav being one of the things in life that give me a real buzz. I decided to name this trip ‘The Cookie Trail’ as for sure this is the home and origin of so much of the biscuit shelf from the sugar cookie to the praline and the choc-chip.
COOKIE or BISCUIT ? – that is the question.
Apparently the word ‘biscuit’ derives from the Latin ‘bis coctus’ which sounds like an exotic plant means ‘twice baked’ I was doubtful when I first read this – but realised that in French ‘ biscuit’ that is a perfect translation. So biscuits were hard, durable little chunks of nourishment that you could carry on your travels. Historically there were ‘ship’s biscuit’ and biscuit rations. Americans have kept the word, but use it differently. Should you be staying in a ‘Southern Home’, you may be offered ‘sausage and biscuit’ for breakfast. Do not be afraid – it is worth saying ‘yes please’ just to see what you get ! For sure it will be a small hot scone, accompanied by a small round of grilled sausage-meat the size of a drop-scone! US ‘biscuit’ = small hot unsweetened scone! (come to think of it – in Southern States there may be just the odd spoonful of sugar!)
‘Cookie’ on the other hand can be traced to the influence of Dutch immigrants on the Americas. The word ‘koekjes’ meaning cake was introduced in 1600s. Although it can still be found in certain areas of UK to describe various small cakes or buns, it was adopted in US and by 1700s had been Anglicized into ‘cookie’ or sometimes ‘cookey’. So it remains to this day.
American cookies tend to be sweeter than the UK equivalent and also they are softer and more cake like. We Brits go for crunchy teeth defying gingers, whereas across the Atlantic they are happy to chew on a cookie which needs no dunking – indeed the idea of ‘dunking a biscuit’ would be very confusing to our American friends ! (Who would dip a scone in a cup of tea?) Needless to say, on the whole American cookies are twice, if not three or four times, bigger than their British cousins! (Most of them would certainly not perch on the edge of a china tea plate!)
and finally to complete the picture Myriad of markets