The history of the ANZAC biscuit

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ANZAC Day is drawing upon us on Monday, and while initial thoughts of gratefulness are due to the extra sleep in and long weekend, the 25th is a day of reflection.

At some point on Monday, there will come a time when we all reflect on what this day means to us, and what the soldiers on the frontline went through all those years ago to protect the beautiful country we call home today.

There are plenty of iconic ways Aussies and the Kiwis will spend their ANZAC Day. Perhaps you will attend a dawn service in your local area, watch the annual AFL ANZAC match between Collingwood and Essendon, or you might show your respect with something as simple as buying an ANZAC pin.

One thing is for sure, one of the most iconic pieces of the day, is the humble ANZAC Biscuit. But how did it earn its name, and why is it such an important bite-size piece of our history?

Also known as the Army biscuit, the ANZAC is a product with a long shelf life. Initially unsweetened and quite hard, legend has it the wives and women left behind by those at war in Gallipoli would make the biscuits to send to their loved ones overseas because they wouldn’t spoil.

An eggless biscuit, the ANZAC is nothing more than oats, sugar, flour, desiccated coconut, butter and bi-carb soda, boiling water and golden syrup. All of these ingredients were able to last the long trip over (back before priority or express post and speedy air mail), to ensure they made them to loved ones without going off.

All components of the ANZAC biscuit were also quite accessible at the time, eggs were actually quite scarce during the war, so inventors of the famous biscuit used butter and maple syrup, or treacle as a binding agent, and the bi-carb soda was a leavening agent.

It’s not officially known who came up with the initial recipe, however both Australia and New Zealand had a large number of Scottish immigrants who were known to use and eat oats a lot for their nutrition, so it has been assumed the original recipe was based on a Scottish biscuit.

Funnily enough, ANZAC biscuits were included in a lot of the soldier’s rations as a substitute for bread because of their longer shelf life, and some of the men would grind their biscuits into kind of porridge to make them softer. Back in these times, the biscuit was known as a “tile,” due to the hardness of it, so aren’t you glad today the thought of an ANZAC biscuit is soft and sweet? Not tough and bland!

One of the best ways to sum up the significance of the ANZAC biscuit was written by author Sian Supski, who said the biscuits not only remind us of a time in Australian history that was seen as pivotal, but they also “signify women’s input to the war effort on the home front.” Brilliant words.

So with all the spare time you have fitting your weekend into three days not two, find some time to whack on an apron and whip up some soft, scrumptious ANZAC biscuits to commemorate the day and remind us all how lucky we are.

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