Spence on Ginger Nuts.

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Reflections on the Suggestion ‘Ginger Nuts are the Most Difficult Biscuits to Dunk in Tea, Due to the Complexity of Gauging Sogginess and Potential Crumble to Goddamn Crunchiness.’ 

The smell in the box-room study is a harsh mixture, an acerbic aroma of faux-fruit cleanliness punctuated by hints of damp air from the open window. Though it has done well to extinguish the malodour of stale curry and deodorant, this bouquet could not be said to be anything other than clinical and moody, and more akin to a Dignitas ward than a home.

It is time to service the fountain pen, a once reluctant ally who has not seen action befitting his craft in nearly four years; a casualty of the transfer to the varsity and the influx of cheap, easy migrant biro labour. His body in bits, nib stewing in the overpowering concoction of detergent and his own inky filth, he sits, balefully watching the cheerful Staedler zipping impudently across the page, cursing his misfortune at having been replaced, whilst equally sulking at the prospect of being pressed back into service. No pleasing some pens.

His mood does not improve with the arrival of tea; it makes for poor ink and he has no time for it. The sense of contempt that emanates from him as the mug is set down upon the desk is a learned behaviour, and one can’t really wonder from whom he learnt it given his lack of recent contact with the outside world, but it irks nonetheless. The brew, however, goes some way towards alleviating the chemical miasma, rendering obsolete any opinions or objections he may have in this instance. Besides, he’s a pen. He’s a pen that’s not even in one piece, what does he know? He’s always criticising me and my choice of drink, not to mention my approach to tackling essays. That’s why I put him away in the first place. Nothing’s ever good enough for him, oh no. He wishes that the Buchan boy’s parents had bought him instead, and then he’d have been at Eton and on to Oxbridge to study something with employment at the end of it, no doubt. Pointy-faced git.

The tea, controversially, has not arrived to act as an air-freshener, and this has nothing really to do with a temporarily disabled fountain pen, so for now, we shall leave him to his own limited devices. Fuck you Nibby, you miserable bastard, fuck you sideways.

Fountain of Pen

I digress. A few weeks ago, an old school friend proffered a suggestion that, to his mind, ‘Ginger Nuts are the most difficult biscuits to dunk in tea, due to the complexity of gauging sogginess and potential crumble to goddamn crunchiness.’ Having opened this up for discussion, and with both tea and Ginger Nuts secreted around the kitchen, I decided, amateur scientist that I am, to investigate the claims of Mr. Luc Farrant Esq and go some way towards claiming a first Nobel Prize (probably not for literature).Immediately, however, a problem is encountered: does this field possess adequate research to enable a discussion at all? Certainly, it is one in which countless practicals have been undertaken, but, owing to some oversight of g-astronomic proportions, no data has ever been recorded, or at least, none survives that is known of. One must thence, I’m afraid, warn that what follows hereafter is not a discourse, rather a tricky and complex account of such a ground-breaking experiment, complete with soporific terminology and a style that borders on the jejune or like whatever.

So, let us wander back in time a little to May 2nd in the year of our Lord 2014. Accompanying the tea was an assortment of biscuits assembled to pit themselves against the aforementioned Ginger Nut; a Milk Chocolate Digestive, a Dark Chocolate Digestive, a Jaffa Cake, a Custard Cream*, A Penguin, a Hobnob*, a Jammy Dodger* and a Chocolate Finger* (due to unfortunate budgetary restrictions and an inability to find a pound shop, all those marked * were replaced with Dark Chocolate Digestives; it is considered unlikely, in my highly respected semi-professional opinion, that this will markedly skew the outcome of the study). The process undertaken is simple enough to follow; a series of dunks of differing time lengths for each biscuit (timings at the discretion of the dunker) to enable assessment of levels of sogginess and crumble in comparison to levels of goddamn crunchiness, or something like that.

Being the foremost subject of this examination, The Ginger Nut was selected first. The hand quivered in anticipation of the magnitude the findings could bring, and a good third of the biscuit was submerged vigorously for the agonising period of around 2.73 seconds, give or take .42 seconds. Thereafter, the molars were met by a satisfyingly secure crunch, but with all the added saturation that comes from a period of immersion in a steaming beverage. At the second attempt, again, succulent and sapid, but tempered this time by significantly less resistance to the lower jaw’s upward arc. The third, fatal plunge, and all hope of survival was lost. Five seconds, maybe four, and the ginger nut was no more, the very fabric of the biccy disintegrating and sinking, helplessly, into the murky brown depths of the mug.

So far, so pointless.

Next up was the chocolate digestive; a plucky young thing much favoured by the Great British public, owing to its stoic role in the dossing off of work nationwide during extended tea breaks. In it goes, off goes the phone, away slips the hand, plonk goes the biscuit. You get nothing, chocolate digestive. You lose. Good day sir.

Try reading out this post in an Alan Bennett voice

Its cousin the Dark Chocolate Digestive fared better, but this can probably be attributed to the lengthy telephone conversation allowing the tea to go cold; that and the fact that the liquid was now four fifths biscuit. Undeterred, the original cuppa was discarded, and a fresh one put in its place, and after three dunks of its great aunt, the ‘Jammy-Dodger-Custard-Cream-Hobnob-Finger’, the assumption could safely be made that the steady progression of disappointingly crumbly ‘crunch’ to soggily sombre ‘munch’ meant that any one of the aforementioned biscuits, following the same basic pattern of degeneration, could not be considered the equal of the Ginger Nut in terms of difficulty gauging ‘sogginess… to goddamn crunchiness.’ Scienced.

What remained then at this juncture were the penguin and a Jaffa Cake; perhaps the two most controversial participants in the assessment. Try as one might, it was just damned impossible to get the penguin into the tea, until someone had the clever idea of knocking it out first. Frankly, it wasn’t worth the hassle; there was no crunch, there was no crumble, and from what was observed, there was little evidence of absorption. On closer, oral inspection, the thing came across as chewy. Tough and chewy and salty and feathery and coming round and deeply disgruntled, and not what we had hoped for. The Jaffa Cake, meanwhile, was busy trying to detach itself from the formalities of the procedure, on the basis that if it took part in the experiment it would legally contradict the findings of the ruling tribunal in the case of United Biscuits (LON/91/0160), whereby Jaffa Cakes at large amongst the population were classed as cakes for purposes of determining VAT. He cajoled, he wailed, he threatened and he wallowed.

He was dunked anyway, and was indeed a cake. Who’da thunk it.

Hello Kitty Cake Photo Cake

Having now had time to analyse the data and ponder what it suggests, one can safely say that an unexpected similarity in crumble rates between Jammy Dodgers, Custard Creams, Hobnobs, Chocolate Fingers and Digestives hints at a real lack of diversity in the biscuit market at present, which is bad news for the consumer, but fantastic news for a Mr. J. Laing Esq, who stands to make a staggering amount of money from inheriting the wealth of someone else who inherited the wealth of someone else who inherited the wealth of the the man who invented the biscuit in 1892, which he thoroughly deserves for all the jolly hard work he does promoting confectionary. Moreover, the predictability of the pace of biscuit saturation also leans towards the claim of Mr. Farrant that, indeed, Ginger Nuts are the most difficult biscuits to dunk; optimum dunkage for the aforementioned biscuits was calculated at an average of around 4.2 seconds, whilst the Ginger Nut returned no satisfactory timescale; it is either crunchy, or crumbled.

Science therefore leads us to the conclusion that Ginger Nuts are the most difficult biscuit to dunk. What, however, can be said for the moral argument? Certainly, Church of England clergy tend to shift their time equally between the Custard Cream and the Nice biscuit, whilst the Roman Catholic Church seems more inclined towards Fortnum and Mason’s own brand (Pope Francis, for all his man of the people Jesuit tendencies, is partial to Dark Mezzani Florentines, and frankly, I applaud him for his taste). Whether there is any moral reason as to why these Christian churches seem to find it so difficult to adopt the ginger nut as their tea sponge of choice is unclear; Is there a passage in the Bible that forbids the acceptance of ginger in Christianity, which might go some way towards explaining the demonization of red headed individuals in Western culture? Certainly, reasons for choosing the Nice variety over others are as plentiful throughout testaments Old and New as they are clear:

 ‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.’

                                                                                                                                                                –Ephesians 4:32

What is often overlooked, however, is the passage in Mark (5:9) which described the exorcism of the Gerasene Demoniac. Though the passage is often presented thus:

‘And He (Jesus) asked him, “What is thy name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion: for we are many.”’

It is thought that an alternative translation from the now discredited book of Keith (4:2) recounts the event in a rather different manner:

You know what I am saying?

‘And He (Jesus) asked them, (the biscuits), “What is thy name?” And they answered, saying, “Our name is Ginger Nut: for we are crunchy.”’

One can therefore suggest that Christianity also opposes the consumption of Ginger Nuts on grounds of heresy, and on the basis that their difficulty to dunk may well occur because liquid will always reject a Ginger Nut on contact because it is guilty of witchcraft, which causes it to float. A fair pan-religious study cannot at this time be conducted, however, as other religious bodies make it so difficult to conduct a study at all. Whilst Christianity has at least gone to the effort of trying the Ginger Nut, before subsequently putting it on trial, Islam won’t countenance the consumption of Jaffa Cakes on the grounds that proceeds from their sales go to the Israeli government; a snub Israel responded to by bulldozing a Palestinian town. Atheists, meanwhile, are of no use to any study on the subject, as to deny God is to deny that God created chocolate chips, without which Mr. Laing’s forebears could not have possibly envisaged creating disks of dough and sweeteners, mass marketed to the general public as accompaniments to cups of dried brown leaves in Royal Worcester porcelain receptacles filled to the brim with boiling water, for the purposes of relaxation or entertainment whilst socialising.


What then can we say of our study? Surely that science proves that practically speaking Ginger Nuts are indeed the most difficult of biscuits to dunk, and that the findings presented effectively support the arguments of the Roman Catholic Church that morally it is truly very hard to bring one’s self to dunk such a creation in the first place.

I sit now, pondering this momentous conclusion, at a loss for words. Nibby glowers.

From the Desk of Benedict Spence.


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