Appropriately enough given its Norse associations, late November’s biscuit is the gift of a cat called Master Loki and comes to us fresh from the bracing climes of Norway, a favoured holiday destination of Master Loki’s staff. The name of this species is Ballerina and it won’t surprise you to know that the word means the same thing in English as Norwegian or that it is on long-term loan to us from the Italians, who are generous like that. In its size, compactness and solidity the Ballerina has much in common with the popular biscuit brands of Britain, but with one intriguing difference that makes it a paradox of biscuit design: its two very different sides. Here’s the recto:
And here’s the verso:
As you can see, this is less yin and yang than Pushmi-Pullyu or perhaps two mass-produced biscuits for the price of one. Not that my tastebuds were at all put out by the incongruity, but intellectually I couldn’t quite grasp the reason for combining these two apparently unrelated designs.
The reason for the name also intrigued me and with a bit of imagination the recto side does look a bit like a tutu. Here’s a little reminder of what other famous ballerinas get up to from the wonderful Gina Storm Jensen, a Norwegian dancer who performs with the Royal Ballet:
Like their biscuity namesakes, human ballerinas combine two excellent characteristics you don’t often see operating together elsewhere: grace and strength. It takes sensitivity and understanding of the way the body moves through space to be able to create motions this exquisitely graceful, and it takes many hours of work to build up the levels of fitness and stamina needed to hold each position and execute each step with precision and care.
It feels like grace and strength of a less visible kind are badly needed in our world at present. ‘Patient endurance is what you need right now,’ counsels the writer to the Hebrews and I think it’s good advice for us. It’s so easy to be caught off balance when temptations to irritation, weariness and worry seem to be coming at us from so many angles. Stepping carefully through the trying days, especially when we are feeling tired or provoked in our spirits, can be a challenge, but I’ve never seen the value of holding our positions with strength and grace quite so much.
Here for the dancing but having trouble keeping your balance? Try the Biscuit Ballerina – with a cup of tea and a smile.
Learn how to step carefully through the world the medieval way… (a German academic shows us how it’s done!)
The loveliest medieval poem I know of about a little white cat (trans. Seamus Heaney).
Interested in the early Norwegians? Eleanor Barraclough writes about the Vikings as travellers, raiders, converts and chameleons in History Today (the image below is from a C14th MS reproduced there).
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.