Wednesday, 8 June 2011

International Rusk Day

Life's worth taking the rusk


“There's an International Rusk day??? Ouma goodness” (@gussilber)

Yes indeed, the inaugural IRD has been proposed as a means of recognising one of South Africa’s most famous ‘foods’, the rusk - the dry, barely edible, twice-baked, misshapen biscuit-type thing that (most) South Africans rank among biltong, boerewors and Nick-Nacks as our staple foods, and after which South Africans living abroad continually hanker, especially the Ouma variety.

Why 23rd June?
Well, Penny Haw (an esteemed local writer of intriguing columns) noted that this particular day is the birth date of Ouma's sister, Anna, who said, "Bets, die biskuit is mos soe hard ek moet nou rus(k)". [Betty, the biscuit is so hard I must now rest]

Why celebrate the Rusk?

There are many reasons why this celebratory day is long over-due. Not least because of the important role that rusks played in the Boer War and continue to play in our lives, all cogently presented in the compelling article by the above-mentioned Penny (@PennyHaw), entitled “Rusks…because your dunking days are never done. And you will finally find out why Ouma became a local food heroine.


Penny notes there are international imitations of the SA rusk: Italians, for example, have cantucci (a double-baked almond rusk-like biscuit), and “Germans have been crunching zwieback, which translates to “twice baked”, for centuries, while mandelbrot and kamishbrot are other Eastern European derivatives.” The Dutch love beschuit for breakfast but they are softer than the Ouma rusk and, I am reliably informed by an esteemed Dutch EcoAnthropologist, are used for ceremonial (e.g. to celebrate births) and other purposes.


How does one eat a rusk?

Eating such a hard food substance is not for the faint hearted or soft-gummed. One has do be fully committed to dunk. Penny explains further: “The accepted and correct way to eat a rusk is to dip it in a cup of tea or coffee. (Anyone who tells you otherwise, does not deserve to eat them.) This requires practice.”


The physics of ordinary biscuit dunking has been recently sorted out (See) but science can’t help us much when it comes to the rusk-tea/coffe dynamic interface. Rusk dunking is a meta-physical art that many have tried (and continue to try) but few have perfected.


I was at university with a chap called Duncan Rusk, who presumably had got this this dunking art down to a tea. [I wonder if his career post-university has taken a dip and whether he has perhaps ended up an old soak, but I digress.]


All this talk of food has made me hungry. So look what I (ably assisted by MrsM) made – the best seed/nut bran rusk since the Big Bang, ever!



And here’s the easy recipe (from my grass colleague,Terry). It is easier than making a galaxy or a smallish solar system but does require more ingredients and takes longer. Of course one needs grass in the form of three different kinds of bran but also lots of nuts and fruits (and go wild here). They could be classified as health rusks but they are actually edible and require no dunking, but then again, “no rusk, no gain!” (@lynnbarbour).


Terry’s Bran Rusks

Ø     5 cups All Bran (I sometimes substitute 1C oats and 1 C hi bulk bran for this or the next ingredient)
Ø     2 cups Digestive Bran
Ø     2 cups self-raising flour
Ø     1.5 cups caramel sugar (non diabetics can make this 2C)
Ø     1 Tablespoon backing powder
Ø     2-3 C chopped pecan nuts/almonds (the more the better)
Ø     Seeds (I throw in a few handfuls of sunflower/linseed/sesame /pumpkin seeds if I have)
Ø     500g Flora Lite margarine
Ø     3 eggs
Ø     500 ml low fat buttermilk

1.     Mix all dry ingredients together (sieve flour and BP)
2.     Melt margarine and pour over
3.     Add buttermilk and beaten eggs
4.     Mix well
5.     Spread in well greased roasting pan – I line bottom with greased wax paper
6.     Bake at 180°C for 50 min
7.     Turn out and when cool cut into pieces
8.     Dry on mesh tray on baking tray at 100°C  overnight.
9.     Enjoy!


  1. I've just realised that I'm going to be out of the country on IRD this year! No problem: I'll introduce the French to the fine art of dunking. About time, I say! Lovely post and I'm going to try out the recipe this weekend. Cheers, Penny

  2. well done Who could not enjoy dunking a rusk
    nice blog

  3. Debunking the drunken rusk dunking myth! Great article, Craig. Really enjoy reading your stuff.

  4. Aside from Quirina's #tonguetwister - ;-), this is interesting, not least because of your obvious enthusiasm for the subject.

  5. A change is a good as a rusk, as they say. Loved the combination of humour, passion for your beloved blades and information. :)