Arnott’s Ginger Nut – the ultimate taste-off

June 20, 2016 at 14:19 | Posted in biscuits | 4 Comments
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Arnott's ginger nut full set packsYes folks, this is it. The one you have been waiting for. Buckle yourselves in, because we’re going deep into the heart of a great Australian controversy. Just who has the best Ginger Nuts?

To refresh your memory, Arnott’s make a slightly different kind of Ginger Nut for each state. In fact they make four different types, to cater for the different sensibilities of Australians. They were forced to do this after riots broke out when, after consolidating all their baking operations into NSW, they tried to foist the NSW Ginger Nut on the whole country. This is all familiar history, of course; we all know the story of how the GG had to step in, parliament was dissolved, elections were held and Arnott’s were forced, by deed of legislation, to recreate each type of Ginger Nut as used to be baked by its regional bakeries. (And you thought the Dismissal was a CIA plot…)

So let’s get into this. We’ve looked at the NSW Ginger Nut before in some detail, but to help me with this important quest I trawled through my little black book of biscuit fanatics to pull together a small team to help with the tasting – including representatives of each state to ensure a balanced panel.

First, some key stats.

ginger nut basic stats

All the packs are a uniform 250g, but as you can see the number of biscuits you get varies very widely. Queenslanders have a wide diameter but are lightweight, and the biscuits Arnott’s bake for them are large and thin. Heaviest are the New South Welsh, who are also amongst the thickest, and the biscuit Arnott’s bakes for them is of average diameter. (Hmm, I sense this line of humour is going to get stale rather quickly. Unlike Arnott’s biscuits, which have quite a satisfactory shelf life. (Please stop now. Just stop. Ed.))

ginger nut biscuits 2They do actually look quite different – the QLD one is darker, for example, and has sugar glistening on the top. Interestingly they all have exactly the same list of ingredients – but the order of the ingredients is different on each pack. So the recipes are a bit different, it’s not just how long they are baked.  They also have slightly different energy ratings – with the QLD variety having a few more calories than the others. Those on the diet should stick the the NSW ones, which are 5% less calorific than the QLD variety.

Yes yes yes, I hear you cry impatiently, that’s all very interesting, but what do they taste like?

Wginger nut biscuitsell, they do actually all taste different. The Victorian ones, for example, are more gingery than the others, whilst the QLD ones have more of a gingerbread taste, rather than a ginger biscuit flavour. Less hot, more mellow.

And of course, the texture varies quite a lot. The extraordinary hardness of the NSW variety is utterly unmatched by it’s brethren, with the SA/WA version seeming very chewable by comparison. The QLD version is much crumblier, which coupled with the thin biscuit makes them very easy to eat fast. The Victorian version has a nice crunch to it, and texture-wise is probably the closest to the Ginger Nut archetype.

Interested in some more statistics? Here’s the biscuit density, in grammes per millimetre cubed, along with the tensile strength:

ginger nut strength

Of course, there is another aspect to the Ginger Nut which is very important – that that is its dunkability. The NSW Ginger Nut, it has been oft observed, meets hot tea like a <insert inappropriate metaphor here>, yielding into soft, chewy goodness (but never crumbling into the tea, heaven forbid!).

How do the others stack up? Well, the QLD is a complete failure in this department. It goes soggy very fast, the structural integrity is gone, and the texture quickly goes to mush. Not good at all. The Victorian version is a little better, but only a little, with the exterior of the biscuit going squishy too quickly – also the stronger ginger flavour kind of fights against the tea. The SA/WA biscuits are really not bad at all in hot tea – they hold up well, and soften nicely delivering an enhanced taste. However, it comes as no surprise that the NSW Ginger Nut holds up as dunker supreme. Indeed, whilst we were doing the tasting, the SA taster (who up until then had been deeply suspicious of the NSW variety) went into raptures over his dunked NSW biscuit. ‘Oh yes,’ he moaned. ‘Oh yes, this is sensational…’

And so, we come to the final tally. For, in biscuits as in life, there can be only one winner. Only one state can stand tall. There is only one best Ginger Nut. And with that, let us reveal the final scores:

NSW:  8 out of 10

VIC:   7.8 out of 10

SA/WA:   7.6 out of 10

QLD:   5 out of 10

 

Let the riots begin…

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The Secret River – Kate Grenville

October 13, 2015 at 21:06 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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The Secret River starts in 1780s Lsecret riverondon. William Thornhill, a small boy, born in the squalid slums of London, get a chance to create a life for himself as a waterman, ferrying people across the Thames. Then, when things go wrong for him, he, his wife and their son are sentenced to be transported to Australia.

Arriving in Sydney in the early days of the colony, Thornhill sets out to rebuild his life, eventually claiming land and settling on the banks of the Hawesbury river.

Of course, the settlers come into contact with, and conflict with, the Aboriginal people of the area. There is horrific violence and brutality, but also attempts at reconciliation and peace. The moral choices are often ambiguous, and the novel paints a vivid portrait of early colonialism.

It’s a gripping read, often uncomfortable, and certainly gives an insightful perspective into the struggles between the white settlers and the Aborigines – and ultimately how the ‘blacks’ were brutally subjugated.

I’ve read a fair bit of Australian history since moving here some years ago, but this novel really puts that history into human terms. There is a risk in reading it as history though, in that Thornhill is very unusual in terms of his liberal, tolerant outlook. This paints a rather romanticised picture of white settlement (although Grenville does not shy away from the uglier side of colonial attitudes in other characters). But that said, I still recommend this book to all seeking both a great novel, and also an insight into how Australia was colonised by Europeans.

The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman

December 31, 2014 at 19:36 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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lightoceiansNot since I read Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ do I remember being so enthralled and emotionally engaged with a novel as with M.L. Stedman’s ‘The Light Between Oceans’. The former book I read in a single sitting on a long train ride in Thailand, and likewise I read ‘The Light Between Oceans’ from start to finish on a plane journey from New Zealand. Indeed, I didn’t quite finish it, even when reading it in the taxi on the way back to the house, so rather than going in to greet my family after my trip away, I sat on the grass verge outside to read the last few pages first.

When I then did go in, I think my two little girls were bit taken aback with the emotional welcome I gave them, fueled as it was by this extraordinary tale, set in post WW1 Australia. It concerns war veteran turned lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne, who lives with his wife, Isabel, on an isolated rock miles from the mainland. They struggle to have children, and when a boat washes ashore containing a dead man and a tiny crying baby Isabel thinks her prayers have been answered. However, the ramifications of the decision Tom and Isabel make that night reverberate through the following years as events become more and more entangled and desperate as the child’s true provenance emerges.

I highly recommend this book – you should read it.

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