OK folks, today I am going to keep this post simple. Can anyone tell us the difference between a cookie and a biscuit?
Think there is no difference? THINK AGAIN.
The British – Biscuit lovers
Evidently, the British (and most of the Old Worlders I should think) are fans of those little hard snacks that snap and crunch as you sink your teeth into them. Some of them would even come with fillings of different flavors in between those hard layers: Cream, chocolate, strawberry, you name it, you got it. I am sure most of us would have eaten them at least once in our lives. For those who haven’t, meet the biscuit.
Biscuits come in all shapes, sizes and colours, though they usually come bite-size or slightly larger. They are typically dry, hard, and crunchy (there are some crumbly variants). More importantly, their fillings usually come in between biscuit layers – or wafers – which sets them apart from their American counterparts. We’ll explore why this is so in the next section.
(FYI, the word “cookie” is not often used by the British until recently)
The Americans – Cookie “da Rebel”
To the Americans, the need to distinguish themselves from their former colonial masters was great, so great that they decided to do many drastic things to distinguish their culture from their “brothers-in-arms”. Apart from the numerous changes to their spelling system (color vs colour, center vs centre, vaporize vs vapourise), they also decided to break away from the traditional idea of “biscuits” and re-invented the snack. It is now revived with a new style and name, and it is called the cookie.
While most people will go “wait a minute, the cookie and the biscuit are the same thing”, there are actually a couple of subtle differences in the style of presentation and taste of these cookies as compared to their Old-World relatives. For one thing, the Americans decided to make them bigger, rounder, and slightly softer (though softness is subjective, depending on the baking style). More importantly, note how the fillings have been added to the pastry. Unlike the biscuit wafer-style fillings, Americans decided to split their substance into little chunks and embed them throughout the dough, and presto – the chocolate chip cookie is born! Try typing the word “biscuit” into Google’s image search, and compare them to search results for the word “cookie”. You’ll understand the difference.
So where did the biscuit go?
But of course, the Americans pulled no stops to distancing themselves from their former masters. In a bid to throw the biscuit entirely out of the window, they decided that it should be used to name a small leavened bread instead (thankfully they didn’t turn the word into a taboo). If you want a taste of a typical American biscuit here in Singapore, I recommend you check out Popeyes’ biscuits. They taste good, and are damn filling.
The Gasoline-Petroleum Issue
Cookies and biscuits ain’t the only things the Yanks and the English have issues about. They also decided to name the fuel they use differently too. In Europe, people top up their cars and other vehicles with petroleum, but in the States, they fill their tanks with gasoline (or gas for short). Hahaha… it’s pretty amusing now that we think about it, why they decide to use different names even though both sides speak the same language.
Metric vs Imperial
That’s not all. While the British have moved on and started using the new metric system of units, the Americans seem to have taken one step “backwards” and retained the usage of the Imperial units system – although they decided it should be renamed as the “United States Customary System”. This is a peculiarity that I never really got an explanation for, and is still going quite strong today. Whether it is out of usefulness, laziness to change, or sheer pride and refusal to accept the metric system, I guess this is an exploration I will look into soon. =)
It’s really amusing to explore the other little nuances that separate the Americans from the British. The ones I’ve listed are just a few of the many differences between them. I wonder what others I can find in time to come…