It’s autumn again and far too long since my last biscuit. This month I’m going to be blogging on the all-absorbing subject of the Maple Cream Cookie, a present from my friend Olivia who brought some back for me from a holiday to Canada in May. (Disclaimer: when I started this bestiary, it was my modest ambition to catalogue the 30 or so species of biscuit most plentiful to the British Isles, but somehow word has got around and I now have a whole shelf of offerings from America, Canada, South Korea and the Czech Republic so hold on to your hat-boxes, dear readers, we’re going to be travelling a lot further than planned).
It would be hard to find a biscuit more Canadian-looking than this one, shaped to resemble a maple leaf albeit a little less delicately than the real McCoy. These have survived the voyage across the pond magnificently with only one hairline crack to show for it. The packaging also gets a thumbs up from this Brit: focused as I was on the comestibles, it was only when I went to photograph it that I noticed the picture of the Niagara Falls.
As this is the first ‘sandwich’ this bestiary has featured, it’s worth saying a bit about this special branch of the biscuit family (a branch big enough to embrace both the Oreo and the Custard Cream). The obvious advantage is that you get TWICE the biscuit in one mouthful, plus a delicious filling used as a kind of confectionary mortar to cement them together (although really the whole product is less like a sandwich than a heavy-weight macaroon).
Even after five months on the shelf in our kitchen these still smelt strongly of maple syrup which is another plus point in my book, maple syrup being some ambrosia of the gods. Unlike the gods of the Greek Pantheon, however, these cookies had softened with age, so although they were still comfortably within their use-by-date it would be best to eat these straightaway for maximum pleasure.
I don’t have to look too far from the tree for a moral for this biscuit. Sic gloria transit mundi: like the leaves of autumn and the Maple Cream Cookie, thus passes the glory of this world. A medieval rejoinder can be found in the Book of Isaiah (a prophet and a poet): exsiccatum est faenum cecidit flos verbum autem Dei nostri stabit in aeternum/ ‘the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands for ever.’ To my mind, the awareness of autumn’s decay and winter’s mortality has the tendency to alter almost every perspective on life as we’re living it in the present: sometimes for the sadder and sometimes for the better, but always for the wiser in the end.
What, it’s not enough that you get a slide-show of biscuits and flowers? How about a few exciting things to do with Maple Syrup then…
A glimpse of a summer beyond the grief of winter (music from the Medieval Baebes and lyrics from the Middle English Pearl, with various images from YouTuber Arthur Foster).
Is that the time? If you don’t have any cookies to hand, you can still feast your eyes on this month’s illumination from the Middle Age’s most famous book of hours (grâce à iBiblio.org).
If you would like to see more entries more regularly and help keep this bestiary free of ads, you are welcome to contribute to the Biscuit Jar.