Tunnock’s and McVitie’s? Aye!

There was a time when Tunnock’s sold five million of their caramel wafers every week, a fact that was advertised on the wrapper of each wafer. One day, a cousin on the home farm read the figure and said, “I reckon our family eat most of those.”

If his estimate that our consumption of caramel wafers ran into millions was probably exaggerated, it did reflect the fact that they were very popular with us. (Now that the number eaten¬† has passed six million a week, our proportion has correspondingly shrunk). Our grandmother had given us Tunnock’s caramel wafers as a treat when we were children. Perhaps this had meant no more than that we had developed a taste for them. Perhaps there was something deeper, perhaps a subconscious association between Tunnock’s and happiness had developed.

It is difficult to pick up a Tunnock’s wafer and not recall the farmhouse, and the diminutive figure of our grandmother, mother of seven and grandmother to twenty. Eating a wafer would have meant being in the warm kitchen, sat around the table. It would have meant being in the company of cousins, for there were always cousins on the farm. It would have been after a day of activity and laughter.

A Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer conjures a sense of absolute security, a feeling that all is well with the world.

Equally important are McVitie’s Biscuits. McVitie’s Digestives are a comfort food. On grounds of health, the plain ones are preferable; on grounds of enjoyment, the dark chocolate ones are definitely the best choice.

I have clear recall of eating chocolate digestives during my time as a curate in a parish in Co Down. There was a house where I would call regularly. The couple had a baby son who spent many months in hospital and I would call with them for news of progress and in the hope of giving a few words of encouragement. We always had sweet tea and chocolate digestives.  Perhaps it was from those house calls that the feeling developed of digestive biscuits as something that represented security and hope.

Perhaps I should have known, but both McVitie’s and Tunnock’s are Scottish. McVities was established in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh in 1830, while Thomas Tunnock founded the company that his family still own at Uddingston, outside of Glasgow in 1890.

There are probably academic histories of the development of biscuits, but the Scottish roots of Tunnock’s and McVitie’s perhaps point to a culture and tradition of hospitality, a tradition of welcome and sharing with visitors. Perhaps they also point to a tradition of temperance among the Presbyterian population, sitting down for tea and biscuits instead of standing in a public house.

Whatever their origins, it’s a loud “aye” to Tunnock’s and McVities.

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