I recently came across European Neighbours’ Day, held on the last Friday of May. During the 1990s, a group of residents in the 17eme arrondissement in Paris had the aim of encouraging people to take action against loneliness and isolation. Other cities and towns took this idea up and it gained international recognition, highlighting the need to increase social bonds and improve community cohesion.
I haven’t found out if this day is happening this year, but it sounds a brilliant idea for neighbours who rarely speak to anyone to make an effort to come together safely in their local environment. Even better, this year 29 May is National Biscuit Day so here’s a good excuse to have a socially distanced chat over the fence with a mug of tea or coffee and a biscuit or two.
Origins of biscuits!
Biscuits came about as a way of making flour and other ingredients last longer so that they could be taken on lengthy journeys. They were a staple on long sailing expeditions for the Ancient Egyptians and for Roman soldiers during their conquests of different lands. Anzac Biscuits became famous in WW1 for the same reason. Biscuits become known as a sweet confectionary in the 7th century, when the Persians started adding different spices and flavours to the original water and flour mixture.
The word ‘biscuit’ which we use now comes from the 14th century old French ‘bescuit’. It literally means “twice-cooked”, or twice-baked and this derives from ‘bes’/‘bis’ + ‘cuire’ to cook, from the Latin ‘coquere’. In the UK, biscuits are generally a sweet snack, though the word ‘cookie’ from the USA has become quite commonplace. Despite a recent fall in sales, we are still reputed to eat significant numbers of biscuits, with chocolate digestives topping the charts. I’m not getting into the Jaffa Cake biscuit debate here!
For me, there can be no better bake that typifies that ‘melt in the mouth’ biscuit sensation than melting moments. Jenny sent me a family favourite recipe from her Mum, Betty with this message:
“You gave a talk on your grandmother’s recipes to our Social History group which I enjoyed very much. It inspired me to look at an old exercise book of my Mum’s and bake a few of her favourite recipes. I remember helping Mum bake ‘Melting Moments’. They were delicious, a sort of a cross between a biscuit and a bun; she used to put a cherry on the top of each one too.”
Betty’s recipe for melting moments
2½oz/65g lard 1½oz/35g margarine 3oz/75g caster sugar Porridge Oats 5oz/150g self raising flour 1 small egg 1 tsp vanilla essence Glace cherries
How to make
Cream the fats and sugar and beat in the egg, Work in the flour and the vanilla essence. Roll into balls with wet hands and coat with rolled oats. Place on a greased tray and press out slightly. Bake in a moderate oven 15–20 minutes. Cool slightly on a tray before removing and decorate with the cherries.
Meryl says: Betty used lard and margarine as it’s probably a wartime rationing recipe but I’ve used butter instead. I preheated the oven to 180C/200F/Mark 4 which roughly equates to ‘moderate’. If you use vanilla extract rather than essence, a few drops will suffice.
How you celebrate National Biscuit Day is up to you, but sharing it with neighbours is a good way. My Grandma said that “in this world, we’re all neighbours” and it’s a sure thing that Covid-19 has made us think about the bonds that tie us together. What a brilliant excuse on 29 May to bake your favourite biscuits. As always, stay safe.
Read more about Grandma Abson’s life, her passion for baking and more biscuit recipes on the Recipes page of her blog. Head over to Instagram @grandmaabson to see Meryl baking with her grandchildren.