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One of the rather quaint things about the Brits is their love of tea. Even in offices, they stop for tea breaks. They certainly do in Gill’s office. And what would tea be without biscuits (or as we call them in North America) cookies? It seems that, last week, they were running short on cookies so Gill took it upon herself to buy some. Normal people would buy ordinary, run-of-the-mill shortbreads or squares or round sugar cookies. But not my Gill! She bought ‘Spotty Scotties’, shortbreads in the shape of Scottie dogs with chocolate chips being the ‘spots’. And because that wasn’t silly enough, she also bought penguin crackers. I can only imagine what the adults in the office thought.

I’ve written before about our trips to grocery stores here during which she finds every kiddie cookie with a funny shape (preferably animals) known to mankind. She loves them with a childish fervor I cannot explain. Theses cookies don’t taste different than the ordinary shaped ones, but they contain something magical in their ability to make Gill’s head spin.

I do find it hard to reconcile her moaning and groaning one day about how painful her Crohn’s is…and the next she’s eating cookies or cakes for an office birthday party or tea party. She might soon have to go to hospital to have part of her colon removed. Does she actually think Scottie cookies will save her? On the other hand, since she’s going to lose most of what she eats shortly after she eats it, she may as well enjoy the experience, I suppose.

When Gill first shared the exciting news about her purchase of the wee shortbread dogs, she admitted to not having opened them yet.  Of course she hadn’t! I know her…she was studying the box, caressing the package, thinking and fantasizing about how good they’d taste. She was getting the full sensual experience — not unlike going to the theatre to see a movie and perusing the snack selection, pondering which would be best, enjoying the movie trailers and then swooning over the aroma of the popcorn as she held it in her lap. The good thing about the movie theatre is that she also gets the loud noises, the flashes of light on the screen, the rocking of the chair (if she goes to the posh theatre). It’s an entire, all encompassing event.

Her choice in cute cookies usually leads to a crushing disappointment. I remember her extreme angst at discovering that the President’s choice penguin cookies didn’t live up to their promise or potential. And back they went to the offending store — with complaints!  I’d like to have been a fly on the wall when that happened. Although I really don’t know what exactly she could have said. “I didn’t like the taste.” Or “The shape of the penguin wasn’t anatomically accurate”– after which she’d pull out research papers showing real, accurately drawn penguins. Or “They didn’t soften correctly when I dunked them in my tea.” Or “My Grandmother made perfect shortbread cookies and these, madame, are NOT those!”

I suppose I must accept part of the blame for her fascination, nay compulsion, when it comes to food shaped like animals. When the kids were small and trying to cope with food allergies, I used to make sandwiches, veggies, anything I could into appealing shapes to get them to eat. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to the cookie and cracker manufacturers (or the people in the stores selling these items) it would be: Don’t mess with picky eaters plagued with allergies or Crohn’s disease or grandmothers who bake. They know too much. They’ve seen too much. They know when food is trying to fool them. And things may get ugly, very ugly.

“What’s the matter, luv?” the British clerk might say when Gill tries to return cookies.

“Well, first of all, they taste awful! These are not real shortbread cookies.”

“No, luv, they aren’t. They’re bickies.”

“Bickies? What is that? Biscuits?”


“But in Canada, biscuits are big, fluffy things that come with chicken pot pie, Southern fried chicken or for breakfast with butter and jam slathered on them! These are cookies!”

Seeing yet another angry North American insisting that her way was the correct and only way, the clerk might reply: “Well, dearie, whatever they are, you didn’t like them so it’s a moot point. Oh, for the good old days when we were still an empire and the colonies a future nightmare!”