Culture //

In defence of the humble biscuit

Shon Ho spent $2 writing this piece

Art: Johanna Roberts

Plain biscuits are a symbol of simplicity and respectability in a world gone mad. Whilst some might call the Rich Tea and its various cousins boring, bland and disappointing in comparison to the sweet and seductive promises of the Iced Vovos, Wagon Wheels and Monte Carlos, I stand firm in the belief that the beige and slightly anaemic biscuits of the world deserve a place among the best.

Joel Golby, a writer for the Guardian, attacked plain biscuit-eating folk in an article late last year. He equated unimaginative biscuit choices to a psyche of disenchantment and encouraged his readers to “love yourself a bit more” and indulge. I was deeply offended by the suggestion that I lacked culture, ambition and humanity for loving a malted milk.

Without a doubt, pedestrian and pallid biscuits are the best accompaniments to tea. I may prefer a plain digestive to the disturbed perversion that is a strawberry flavoured double cream Oreo, but in a world cluttered by so much extravagance and self-promotion, maybe it is time to revel in the simpler things and look for inspiration in the understated.

Some would have you believe that a plain biscuit signals a lack of innovation, represents an unfounded resistance to progression, and stifles creativity.

Perhaps, but is that always a bad thing? Especially when so much change is fixated on novelty.

Contemporary culture seems to be increasingly characterised by excess. Who thought it would be a good idea to invent jelly sandals? How does one comfortably finish their business on the loo whilst wearing 3D nail art? Why do Johnny Depp’s dogs fly with more luxury than I do? When we promote the slightly cannibalistic abomination that is the ‘turducken’, the future is bleak.

Arnott’s Family Favourites may well be the most standard biscuits on the planet, but they belong in their natural habitats: on napkins in our hands as we huddle around crusty steel water boilers at mandatory formal events, clutching Styrofoam cups of weak black tea. A plain biscuit is not only timeless, but practical – the Milk Arrowroot is an excellent cure for diarrhoea (my mother tells me that they settle the stomach).

Mediocracy has become an insult. We are constantly pressured to stand out more and to be more interesting. We’re told that normalcy does not deserve attention.

Of course, this is not to say that flamboyant biscuits can’t be good – we should be able to enjoy whatever food we want. However there is definitely something confronting about glitzy marshmallows that masquerade as biscuits – deceptive, crafty and passing themselves off as “Milk Chocolate Royals.”

Like that frankly confused biscuit, we lose sight of reality when we get distracted by all the inconsequential glam and pizzazz of too much sugar, coconut, jam, honeycomb and caramel. And so we beat on, empty vessels against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past as we try to fill the inherent emptiness with icing and a false projection of fulfilment.

So let us raise our digestives and sip a cuppa in honour of the basic.

After all, less is more, right?