Digestive biscuits (or simply “digestives”) are lightly sweetened, subtle-tasting, hard-baked cookies. The Brits, of course, call cookies “biscuits,” thus digestive biscuit. Digestives typically contain brown, whole-grain, wheat flour; sugar; malt; oil; and baking soda for a raising agent, It’s the baking soda, a known remedy for indigestion and heartburn, which gave the biscuit the moniker “digestive.” Some variations add oatmeal and/or milk. Unlike most cookies manufactured in the U.S., which contain high-fructose corn syrup, the healthier, little digestive contains old-fashion sugar, and not much of it.
The British generally eat digestives with tea or coffee, frequently dunking them—but if you do, be quick! They rapidly disintegrate in liquid. For the perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, a pot of strong tea and a few digestives are just what the doctor ordered!
From whence did ye come, Digestive Biscuit?
Folks who research such things, found a reference to digestive biscuits as far back as 1851 in the Lancet London. The baker William Hill advertised his “brown meal digestive biscuits.” Then the New Universal Cookery Book, published in 1894, provided a recipe. Around this time, the British brought the biscuit to the States, and John Montgomerie of Scotland, in 1890, was awarded a patent by the U.S. patent Office for his recipe. Nowadays, variations include chocolate-flavored digestives, and regular-flavored with coatings of chocolate (dark, regular, or white), caramel, mint-chocolate, and orange-flavored chocolate.
Digestives are not manufactured in the U.S., however. To buy them, one must find an outlet offering international foods or purchase them online. (Indeed, you can buy them from Anglophiles United! Please find the link below.) Digestives are popular in many countries, including the UK, Australia, and even Greece. I used to buy them from a Greek grocer here in Brooklyn; the brand was “Papadopoulos,” and it offered a reduced-fat version.
A close cousin to the digestive that is manufactured in the States (by Nabisco), is the “Barnum’s Animal Cracker.” You remember: that delightful cookie of childhood in the little circus-cage box with a string handle. (Those handles were originally attached so that the boxes could be hung on Christmas trees.) But please note, animal crackers are not the same thing. They are a different animal. (Pun intended.) For the real deal, hie thee hence to a Brit grocer--or purchase below. Popular UK digestive bands include McVitie’s (the best selling), Cadbury, and Hovis.
Excuse me now....my tea kettle is whistling....and my digestives await me!
GO TO: BRITISH FOOD
GO TO: BRITISH DRINKS
GO TO: HOMEPAGE
BUY DIGESTIVE BISCUITS HERE
BUY TEAS HERE