Tuesday, 2 March 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 G is for Garibaldi

photo courtesy of James F Carter,Wikimedia Commons
Garibaldi biscuits (cookies) are made from two long thin oblong pastry strips forming an outer casing which encloses a thick layer of currants. They are popularly known as 'fly cemeteries' or 'squashed fly' biscuits and as such have been known to deter more sensitive children from eating them, a ploy by older siblings to ensure a greater share of the goodies, no doubt. (It certainly was so in my case until I realised my brother was teasing me!) They are packed in bands of biscuits with an indented line to indicate where each individual starts. Breaking the strips into single entities is part of the enjoyment of eating Garibaldi biscuits. The sweetness comes from the fruit rather than the pastry. (I must confess that I don't really care for Garibaldi biscuits. Too much negative propaganda when I was young? I don't think so!)
photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Why Garibaldi? Giuseppe Garibaldi was a popular Italian general who fought to unify Italy. He visited Tynemouth, England in 1854 and it is believed that the biscuit was named after him. It was first manufactured by Peek Frean in 1861 and has remained a favourite accompaniment to 'a nice cup of tea.' There are conflicting accounts of the provenance of the snack. One explanation declares that General Garibaldi ordered his cook to create a high energy foodstuff for an army marching on its stomach, requiring it to be both lightweight and robust. Another version states that the biscuit was created in England to celebrate the General's visit. A third story claims that the first Garibaldi biscuits were actually formed from bread soaked in horse blood mixed with berries. Apparently, the General frequently had insufficient food for his troops during his campaigns and when rations ran out ordered his horses to be bled to nourish his men. It is entirely possible that legions of flies added themselves selflessly to the ingredients. This last theory seems plausible for indeed in the 13th and 14th centuries Mongol warriors would drink a mixture of mare's blood and milk to sustain themselves, a custom still adhered to in some cultures when food is scarce and a quick infusion of energy is required.
(G also stands for Gillian, my eldest daughter, my son Gareth and, of course, Gus, who is now six months old and as tall as Jenna, though not yet as broad.
Gillian's birthday is March 3rd. Happy Birthday, dear Gillian!)
Thank you to the ABC team who organise and host this meme. Be nosy and see what others have presented for G today!


  1. Fun and interesting post, Janice! Always learn something new and that's always fun! And a very Happy Birthday to Gillian tomorrow from Seattle! Enjoy!


  2. Great informative post. I wasn't sure where they got their name from. I often have to fight my desire for biscuits. Now, where's the tin ... :-)

  3. I didn't know any of your infor on these biscuits , I love to learn new things! Very Interesting.

  4. Fascinating! Especially how you moved from your personal Garibaldi story, to possible theories for the origins to horses blood! I am not that keen on them as the currants always seem to stick in my teeth! Have you had Black Bun-a Scottish traditional new year cake? That is kind of Garibaldi-ish.

  5. I think the cookies would be better if not called squashed fly. Grin. Funny how that works. Happy Birthday, Gillian!!

  6. I was always reluctant to try them when I was younger, but once I did, I couldn't get enough of them.

  7. Great info - I have never had these biscuits! Will have to look out for them.
    Take care.

  8. Garibaldi biscuis must be cousins of Eccles Cakes, which I adore.

    Charles does not care for tapioca or (especially) sago pudding because of a brother who called them fish eggs, fish eggs, and got to eat both his pudding and Charles's.....

  9. Ah. I think I prefer the first two versions of how the biscuits came into being. I remember them from my childhood in the "squashed flies" days, but I don't think I've eaten one in years. Very interesting.

  10. Oh recipes! Wonderful! I am basing all of my ABC posts around a recipe challenge so your post was very very interesting!

    Thanks so much for contributing!
    Denise (ABC Wednesday)

  11. Very informative post thanks for sharing! Happy Wednesday!

    G is for Gold

  12. I love these biscuits but not sure if I will feel the same about them again.

  13. Happy Birthday Gillian!
    Great post!
    I like the way you combine history, biography and food!
    Best wishes

  14. What a fascinating history for such a small biscuit. I rather like them but we always called current squares fly cemeteries and I'm not keen on those.

  15. Yummy post (well, except for the horses, perhaps!) What a nice combo: cookie dough and currants.
    And !happy day! to your daughter. My oldest's is on Sunday.

  16. History is so difficult to pin down. I remember the name of the general but was vague about the food item.

    I've had graham crackers and the best part is breaking them on the perforations.

  17. This is such an interesting post. Learning about history is so enjoyable. Belated Happy Birthday to Gillian.

  18. I love Garibaldi biscuits! Squashed flies notwithstanding, I think I've always loved them. I don't much care for your third option on the origins, but it could well be true!


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