I’ve yet to delve very deeply into the subject of Artisan Biscuits but earlier this year my friend Rachel gave me a box of these Baked Apple and Custard Biscuits from Bath’s Fine Cheese Company. It’s no secret I’ve eaten a lot of biscuits over the years but these are so good they immediately found a home in my Top Ten Biscuits Ever*. Adding dried apple pieces to a butter biscuit recipe produces a biscuit which tastes a lot like Apple Crumble, which is an excellent thing if you like that dessert as much as I do. Here they are in the garden sitting in the shade of the fig, the very image of biblical prosperity and contentment:

The only down side to these biscuits is that they’re so Elegant and English they give off a slightly formal afternoon tea vibe when arranged on a plate which makes you feel you should limit yourself to two or three while inwardly wrestling your inner cookie monster. If you want to eat a few more of them without feeling it incumbent on you to move on to the cucumber sandwiches, I recommend serving them in their rustic-looking container.

An irresistible apple-flavoured biscuit seemed a natural set-up for the story of the Fall, however if you read the account in Genesis 3 no apple is mentioned. Exactly what sort of fruit caused humankind to crumble doesn’t concern us here but this post provides an excellent opportunity to discredit the rumour – probably put about by the same serpent that got Adam and Eve into trouble – that apples get a bad press in the bible.

In fact, apples get an overwhelmingly good press in the bible. Here are just a few of the references to them from The Song of Songs: “Refresh me with apples for I am faint with love.” “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.” Solomon must have been a fan of the humble pippin as they appear in Proverbs as well, where “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (25:11). And they are frequently used idiomatically in the idea of a person or a people being the dearest objects of God’s care and attention: “Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings,” is the prayer of Solomon’s father David in Psalm 17, familiar from the liturgy of Compline.

Detail of God planting the Garden of Eden, Naples c. 1350. Paris, BnF, Français 9561, fol. 7r

There’s more than a hint too that God has a soft spot for fruit trees and their cultivation. “The Lord planted a garden” must be one of my favourite lines in the bible, offering a glimpse of what he was doing at the dawn of human history: making trees grow. Years later, Mary Magdalene mistook the risen Christ for a gardener and it’s Jesus who offers us one of the most beautiful gardening metaphors for the work of the kingdom: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

“If you abide in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit…”

John 15

I’m still learning what this means to be honest but part of it is recognising that it’s only in so far as we make time to attend to God that we’ll be able to communicate something of his presence to others and cultivate the fruit of the spirit: those refreshing characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While it can be hard to remember this truth let alone feel it to be true on a Monday morning, the spiritual life consists in waking up, looking up and engaging with this life that is the wellspring of our lives, however hidden. So much joy, strength and purpose flows from this connection that it’s worth cultivating. Not by straining but by resting. Not by fretting but by trusting. Not by leaning on our own strength but in drawing on his – and the fruit will come.

Further Delectation

Wondering what artisan food is? You can find a helpful discussion here (lots of foods would have qualified as artisan in the Middle Ages!)

BBC Good Food’s guide to throwing an afternoon tea party (how high?) Topical as this is supposed to be #AfternoonTeaWeek.

Try this recipe for Apple Crumble Cookies (a good way to occupy small hands on school holidays) courtesy of Jamie Oliver. Only five ingredients needed.

A lovely song inspired by the abiding theme of John 15 by Aaron Williams.

Me Want It But Me Wait“. Cookie Monster cultivates self-control as a fruit of the spirit.

In medieval bestiaries, hedgehogs were thought to use their spines to gather up fallen apples (a story that may have originated with Pliny the Elder, and which was used as a warning against devilish thefts). Here are some ways to support hedgehogs in real life and a fantastic image of them rolling in apples from a thirteenth-century bestiary:

From BL MS Royal 12 F XIII, fol. 45r

* a highly selective and subjective list, but a list nonetheless.

If you would like to keep this bestiary free from ads and see more entries more regularly you are welcome to contribute to the Biscuit Jar.

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