I have written about mum’s forcer biscuits and I now realise that this is a name she gave them; probably because of the way she had to force the cookie mix through the moulds to get one of the endless variety of designs she could make with the gadget she used. The gadget was the ‘nutbrown’ cookie and biscuit maker but you could also make eclairs, cream puffs and meringues with this device. Now it is one of the many gadgets that made their way into women’s kitchens. This particular gadget never really worked and like many gadgets it was an unnecessary piece of domestic equipment. When it worked ‘though, when mum managed to get the mix just right, it made the pretty very professional looking biscuits. This is a gadget that had the capacity to make women feel that they weren’t quite hitting the mark; that their home made biscuits looked, well, home made at a time when housewifery was seen as a real job.

Mum pressed on with the nutbrown cookie maker. I remember the biscuits she made with it. They were quite fancy – a circular centre with little circles surrounding it – and sandwiched together with vanilla icing. She struggled with this gadget and mostly it sat in its box in the second drawer down (with the wooden spoon) unused (unlike the wooden spoon). The mix had to be just right to force it through the fine cut outs in the metal discs that the mixture was forced through and this was the part that was the most difficult to achieve. Even so, their fatter, softer, more melty textured cousins, the yo-yo were our preferred biscuit. Even better were her shortbread biscuits soft but textured with a buttery taste to die for.

In Wellington I found a shop full of neatly arranged nostalgia from the 1950s and in amongst the cups, saucers, lamp bases and plates was a forcer biscuit box. At $20 it was an affordable memory. I thought I could follow the recipe, which according to the writing on the box, was inside, and make batches of biscuits for Christmas presents.

When I opened the box up the forcer, the shape cutting disks and the piping moulds for meringues and cream puffs were all sitting in their places in the box. The recipe booklet was missing. How would I ever make mum’s biscuits without the recipe?

I have my community of cooks on the Oxford Symposium Facebook page … I will give that a go. If that fails it doesn’t matter: I have the box and the memory and yet another example of my mother’s subtle humour.photo