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Old 09-24-2018, 12:10 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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Are English Digestive biscuits food or medicine?

I've always assumed English Digestive biscuits had sodium bicarbonate or some other antacid in them. The Brits eat these digestive biscuits much like we chew Tums or Rolaids.

A colleague swears they are just sugar cookies.

What's the truth?

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-24-2018 at 12:12 PM.
  #2  
Old 09-24-2018, 12:15 PM
Edward The Head Edward The Head is offline
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They are not sugar cookies, they are a sweetish biscuit. I think they will serve them with tea, but I've always been bad an never gotten afternoon tea when I'm there.

They can also have chocolate coating on them, which I happen to like.

Edit: They do seem to have sodium bicarbonate in them. I always eat them like a normal cookie, multiple at a time.

Last edited by Edward The Head; 09-24-2018 at 12:18 PM.
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Old 09-24-2018, 12:22 PM
Celyn Celyn is offline
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They are just sweetish biscuits/sugar cookies. Quite nice with cheese, although some would disagree.

There's some reason they were first called "digestive" but I can't recall it right now.
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Old 09-24-2018, 12:24 PM
Celyn Celyn is offline
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Ooh, yes, the ones with chocolate on are nice.

I have not got any.
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Old 09-24-2018, 12:26 PM
Celyn Celyn is offline
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Actually, I think it was a question of digestive biscuits and whether there was a USA equivalent that first brought me to the SDMB.
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Old 09-24-2018, 12:29 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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Food. Nothing medicinal about them.
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Old 09-24-2018, 12:56 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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Looks like I'm buying lunch for my colleague. I may take him to a spicy Mexican place. Offer a digestive biscuit later. LOL

Thanks for clearing up my ignorance of British deserts.

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-24-2018 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 09-24-2018, 01:05 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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The closest American equivalent would be graham crackers, I would say. They're not quite the same thing, but it's in the general ballpark. I personally don't think a sugar cookie is a good analog. They are a different texture and not anywhere near as sweet as one (at least the ones I've had.) If you have a decent selection of foreign food in your supermarket, you might be able to find Maria cookies by Goya, which are more similar. You'll also find similar biscuits/cookies in other countries, like petit beurres in France, herbatniki in Poland, butterkeks in Germany, etc. (though often the British ones aren't butter-based, AFAIK.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 09-24-2018 at 01:08 PM.
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Old 09-24-2018, 01:10 PM
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Aren't they pretty high in fiber? Maybe they're "digestive" in the sense of the very end of the process?
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Old 09-24-2018, 01:17 PM
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A British ex of mine often made reference to having something sweet after a meal because the sugar helped with the digestive process. I never knew if that has any truth to it or if it's common misconception where he grew up but it made me interpret digestive biscuits as light sweets to eat after a meal for that purpose (as opposed to being a proper dessert).
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Old 09-24-2018, 01:17 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Aren't they pretty high in fiber? Maybe they're "digestive" in the sense of the very end of the process?
McVitie's Digestive Biscuits, looking it up, have one gram of fiber per five biscuits so, no, that doesn't seem to be the case. I just assumed it was called that because they're pretty bland and easy to digest, like if you were having digestion issues, you would just eat toast and water. Same sort of thing. But, apparently, according to Wikipedia and its sources, they are called such because they were believed to have antacid properties at one time.
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Old 09-24-2018, 02:07 PM
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I've had a ton (maybe literally?) of Maria cookies, and I can see why something like that might be called digestive. They are bland to the point of disappearing from your memory. You can munch on them without much effect except for getting filled up. They're 22 calories per cookie, so you can have several without spoiling your girlish figure (mine was destroyed by other things). Altogether innocuous.

I've never seen a chocolate covered one, probably for the best, they would no longer be innocuous.
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Old 09-24-2018, 02:35 PM
Fuzzy_wuzzy Fuzzy_wuzzy is offline
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The King of Biscuits. Plain ones over chocolate covered one's any day of the week. I never assumed them to be medicine but half convinced myself they had some sort of nutritional value over other biscuits. I had no evidence for this other than they look kinda ordinary & wholesome.
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Old 09-25-2018, 02:58 AM
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Chocolate ones are nice, but plain ones with lashings of butter on top is where it’s at! To clarify for those in America, the chocolate coating is only on the bottom of the biscuit, they’re not completely enrobed.

The name digestive does originally come from the idea that they had an antacid affect via the bicarbonate in the recipe. That was the intention of the inventors anyway. I don’t know how long that idea lasted, but it’s just treated as a semi-seeet biscuit (cookie) now.

FYI, crushed up digestives make a great cheesecake base.

Last edited by GreedySmurf; 09-25-2018 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 09-25-2018, 03:12 AM
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I'm guessing, but it wouldn't surprise me if in the days of lax regulation of advertising they were sold on the implied premise that there was something healthier than the competition about them.

But I've never heard of anyone eating them as some sort of medicine. They might, perhaps, be all one feels one can risk eating after an intestinal upset or a hangover (or to stave off between-meal peckishness) , but that could apply just as well to ginger nuts, rich tea, Nice biscuits or a piece of plain toast.
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Old 09-25-2018, 03:26 AM
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Originally Posted by GreedySmurf View Post
To clarify for those in America, the chocolate coating is only on the bottom of the biscuit, they’re not completely enrobed.
Mine have always had the chocolate at the top.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreedySmurf View Post
FYI, crushed up digestives make a great cheesecake base.
THIS x1000
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Old 09-25-2018, 03:57 AM
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Can I just mention that I got some McVities Nibbles at Aldi the other day. These are biscuit balls, covered in chocolate. Any delusions of medicinal gone, completely gone. You can't fool yourself with these.
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Old 09-25-2018, 04:04 AM
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Mine have always had the chocolate at the top.
This came up on last week’s episode of QI, and has been part of a few “Did You Know…” type web articles in the last year or so.

If you look at a plain Digestive, it’s pretty clear which way up it’s meant to be: the bottom is flat, with an imprint of the grid it’s baked on, while the top is more rounded, and has writing and often some design imprinted on it.

Chocolate Digestives have the chocolate on the flat side, and the side with the writing is uncoated. Therefore, the chocolate is on the bottom of the biscuit. This has been confirmed by McVities — that’s how they make them.

Nobody ever serves Chocolate Digestives chocolate-down, though, so obviously the only correct way to eat them is upside-down.
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Old 09-25-2018, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Looks like I'm buying lunch for my colleague. I may take him to a spicy Mexican place. Offer a digestive biscuit later. LOL

Thanks for clearing up my ignorance of British deserts.
We don't really have any deserts, as we have quite a lot of rain.
  #20  
Old 09-25-2018, 05:42 PM
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The bicarb is a leavening agent. They're delicious.
  #21  
Old 09-25-2018, 05:54 PM
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If you have a cold, a diet of tea and Digestive biscuits is a traditional remedy.

And yes, they're delicious with cheese.
  #22  
Old 09-25-2018, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by GreedySmurf View Post
Chocolate ones are nice, but plain ones with lashings of butter on top is where it’s at! To clarify for those in America, the chocolate coating is only on the bottom of the biscuit, they’re not completely enrobed.

The name digestive does originally come from the idea that they had an antacid affect via the bicarbonate in the recipe. That was the intention of the inventors anyway. I don’t know how long that idea lasted, but it’s just treated as a semi-seeet biscuit (cookie) now.

FYI, crushed up digestives make a great cheesecake base.
What is a lashing of butter, anyway? How does one lash butter?
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Old 09-25-2018, 07:11 PM
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What is a lashing of butter, anyway? How does one lash butter?
Like whipping cream but entirely different.

And one must also lash ginger ale. And beat eggs. Come to think of it, cooking is a bit violent, really.

If you get a digestive biscuit and some quark or cream cheese and some good jam, you've practically got a little mini cheesecake. Well, sort of.
  #24  
Old 09-25-2018, 07:19 PM
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They're also similar to Graham crackers in another way, that they were originally meant as a health-obsessed person's food but turned out to be just tan-coloured cookies.

Little symbolic pictures of fibre.
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Old 09-25-2018, 08:49 PM
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What is a lashing of butter, anyway? How does one lash butter?
If anyone doesn't know what a lashing of butter is, it's only because, in their part of the world, one slaps on some butter instead of lashing it.
  #26  
Old 09-26-2018, 04:24 AM
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This came up on last week’s episode of QI, and has been part of a few “Did You Know…” type web articles in the last year or so.

If you look at a plain Digestive, it’s pretty clear which way up it’s meant to be: the bottom is flat, with an imprint of the grid it’s baked on, while the top is more rounded, and has writing and often some design imprinted on it.

Chocolate Digestives have the chocolate on the flat side, and the side with the writing is uncoated. Therefore, the chocolate is on the bottom of the biscuit. This has been confirmed by McVities — that’s how they make them.

Nobody ever serves Chocolate Digestives chocolate-down, though, so obviously the only correct way to eat them is upside-down.
I have learned something!
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Old 09-26-2018, 04:34 AM
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The digey is / was a craftily marketed biscuit - like others have said it seemed to have a wholesome, healthy, plain vibe to it when we were kids, when really it's just a sugary snack. I say 'was' because now we're all more aware of sugar in the diet [now that we're all fat], but attitudes were different then [when we were all thin].

I live near a Mcvities factory - very pleasant aroma, think it's the jaffa cakes though, not sure if the digestive is crafted there.
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Old 09-26-2018, 04:56 AM
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Me, I prefer Hobnobs to Digestives (both as a treat, and for tummy-soothing ability).

Although, if you're going to add chocolate, I'll take the Digestive...it adds nothing to the Hobnob. Kind of fucks up the texture, in fact.
  #29  
Old 09-26-2018, 09:32 AM
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Just because it has sodium bicarbonate as an ingredient doesn't mean that it'd be antacid. When soda is used in a recipe, it's usually already completely neutralized by some other acidic ingredient, with none left to neutralize stomach acids. Most bases are so bitter as to be completely unpalatable.
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Old 09-26-2018, 10:18 AM
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So, are soda crackers medicine?
  #31  
Old 09-26-2018, 10:27 AM
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My grandmother always had digestive biscuits at home (Canada). Sometimes a full Peak Frean's assortment but often only Digestives. I saw them occasionally at other places but mainly at Grandma's.

Then when I started working in long term care there were always a lot of them around, (also those wafer cookies.. and almost always those horrid pink ones...) I figured it was the bran in them that made them digestive. But that older generation is bowel obessed anyway. My Grandma had a "conniption fit" if I moved my bowels at any other time except after breakfast (her prefered time) or after supper (Grandpa's time). I once told her I had to have a b.m. in the middle od the night...the next day she phoned my mom (her daughter in law) demanding i be taken to a "doctor.for my insides"

(I miss you grandma, with your weird cookies and bowel hang-ups and misgided devotion to my health. Its been 10 years this month, you would be 102 this year.)

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  #32  
Old 09-26-2018, 10:29 AM
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Just because it has sodium bicarbonate as an ingredient doesn't mean that it'd be antacid. When soda is used in a recipe, it's usually already completely neutralized by some other acidic ingredient, with none left to neutralize stomach acids. Most bases are so bitter as to be completely unpalatable.
Yeah, and if you add too much baking soda and leave some unreacted, you can definitely taste it in the cookie/biscuit as a salty, chalky type of taste. Not good eats.
  #33  
Old 09-27-2018, 04:17 AM
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Aren't they pretty high in fiber? Maybe they're "digestive" in the sense of the very end of the process?
Yes. Traditionally the English regarded 'regularity' as next to Godliness, and definitive of good health. Which perhaps says something about the traditional English diet... or maybe it was just a random cultural artifact. In any case, 'digestive biscuits' were understood to be an aid to 'digestion', understood to mean regular and comfortable bowel movements.
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Old 09-27-2018, 05:36 AM
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I've had a ton (maybe literally?) of Maria cookies, and I can see why something like that might be called digestive.
Digestives are a cross between a Maria and a piece of cardboard, says my tongue (and I say this as someone who according to doctors used to present papyrophagy). A few years ago one of those always-ongoing mergers and acquisitions brought Fontaneda and McVittles under the same ownership and someone decided to stop making María Fontaneda, start selling Digestivas Fontaneda, and make an advertising campaign which was the translation of the UK one: something along the lines of "Digestives, like we've always had them". Only, in Spain we hadn't always had Digestives: the campaign left a lot of people looking confused, the disappearance of Marías Fontaneda meant that Marías AnyOtherBrand saw raises in sales and eventually Fontaneda started making Marías again.
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Old 09-27-2018, 05:41 AM
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Digestives are a cross between a Maria and a piece of cardboard, says my tongue (and I say this as someone who according to doctors used to present papyrophagy). A few years ago one of those always-ongoing mergers and acquisitions brought Fontaneda and McVittles under the same ownership and someone decided to stop making María Fontaneda, start selling Digestivas Fontaneda, and make an advertising campaign which was the translation of the UK one: something along the lines of "Digestives, like we've always had them". Only, in Spain we hadn't always had Digestives: the campaign left a lot of people looking confused, the disappearance of Marías Fontaneda meant that Marías AnyOtherBrand saw raises in sales and eventually Fontaneda started making Marías again.
They look more like a Rich Tea biscuit (also made by McVitties).
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Old 09-27-2018, 07:39 AM
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Well, for some reason McVitties decided to replace Marías, not by Rich Tea biscuits (which I agree do look more like Marías) but by Digestives. What I still don't understand is why did anybody think that an advertising campaign based on the notion of "you've always had these cookies!" made sense for a product which, in that specific market, was new. Stupidity, probably.
  #37  
Old 09-27-2018, 08:40 AM
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Amazon sells McVitie's. I'll order a package the next time that I need a small add on purchase to get free shipping.

This thread has gotten me curious to try them.

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-27-2018 at 08:40 AM.
  #38  
Old 09-27-2018, 08:58 AM
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This thread has gotten me curious to try them.
Get Hobnobs, they're delish.
  #39  
Old 09-27-2018, 11:05 AM
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Thank you for the tip.
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Old 09-27-2018, 11:28 AM
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Well, for some reason McVitties decided to replace Marías, not by Rich Tea biscuits (which I agree do look more like Marías) but by Digestives. What I still don't understand is why did anybody think that an advertising campaign based on the notion of "you've always had these cookies!" made sense for a product which, in that specific market, was new. Stupidity, probably.
It does seem a little odd. A very similar approach was a huge success for Werther’s Originals, though, so maybe that’s what they were thinking.
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Old 09-30-2018, 05:37 AM
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Get Hobnobs, they're delish.
Also, the ultimate dunking biscuit

30 second Peter Kay link, SFW
  #42  
Old 09-30-2018, 07:54 AM
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In discussing biscuits in depth I've found this site incredibly helpful. It hasn't been updated for about 10 years, but remains a standard source.

The search box leads to more than 200 results on digestives.
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Old 09-30-2018, 09:22 AM
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Also, the ultimate dunking biscuit

30 second Peter Kay link, SFW
Funny, but in reality, the Hobnob is one of the worst for dunking. According to rigorous scientific testing the best dunker is the Bourbon.
  #44  
Old 09-30-2018, 10:48 AM
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The digey is / was a craftily marketed biscuit - like others have said it seemed to have a wholesome, healthy, plain vibe to it when we were kids, when really it's just a sugary snack. I say 'was' because now we're all more aware of sugar in the diet [now that we're all fat], but attitudes were different then [when we were all thin].

I live near a Mcvities factory - very pleasant aroma, think it's the jaffa cakes though, not sure if the digestive is crafted there.
Is that the one in north west London? I had my first holiday job there many years ago, on the production line! I remember the baking aroma which used to (and still does) hang over the neighbourhood.
  #45  
Old 09-30-2018, 11:53 AM
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They do seem to have sodium bicarbonate in them. I always eat them like a normal cookie, multiple at a time.
I would guess that was added to make them rise a bit. Otherwise you'd be eating digestive hardtack.
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