Go Crazy Cookie Monster, Go Crazy!

by Kevin Burton

   It hurts my heart to know that in 2007, Cookie Monster began talking about cookies as a “sometimes food.”

   This was in response to growing levels of childhood obesity in the United States. In 2006 the people at the Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop) started emphasizing healthy eating and habits.

   Now that’s a good thing and obesity is a serious problem in this country. But forcing Cookie Monster to soft-pedal his grand obsession is hardly the solution.

   I say that’s, well, monstrous.

   The generation I grew up in had enough sense to see a blue Muppet devouring cookies in large quantities (spilling many of them off the side of his face) for what it was, entertainment, hyperbole. Something to laugh at, not something to imitate.

   You won’t see me sugar-coating this vital issue, which I bring to your attention because October is National Cookie Month. Even the people at the National Day Calendar website don’t know who started National Cookie Month.  Who cares? It’s a thing, run with it.

   No I’m not going to run around sampling everybody’s cookies as I did with pizza and cheeseburgers on the occasion of their national spotlight time.  But I do want to give you a taste of cookies in the American culture, a few crumbs of knowledge.

   “In America, a cookie is described as a thin, sweet, usually small cake.  By definition, a cookie can be any of a variety of hand-held, flour-based sweet cakes, either crisp or soft,” explains the website http://www.whatscookingamerica.net. “According to culinary historians, the first historic record of cookies was their use as test cakes. A small amount of cake batter was baked to test the oven temperature.”

   This website has much useful information but they took a long time getting to the obvious point of talking about cookies, the chocolate chip cookie.

   “The first chocolate chip cookies were invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield (1905-1977), of Whitman, Massachusetts, who ran the Toll House Restaurant,” The website reads. “The Toll House Restaurant site was once a real toll house built in 1709, where stage coach passengers ate a meal while horses were changed and a toll was taken for use of the highway between Boston and New Bedford, a prosperous whaling town.  The Wakefields sold the restaurant in 1966. It burned down on New Year’s Eve in 1984.”

   “One of Ruth’s favorite recipes was an old recipe for “Butter Drop Do” cookies that dated back to colonial times.  The recipe called for the use of baker’s chocolate.  One day Ruth found herself without a needed ingredient,” the website reads.

   “Having a bar of semisweet chocolate on hand, she chopped it into pieces and stirred the chunks of chocolate into the cookie dough.  She assumed that the chocolate would melt and spread throughout each cookie.  Instead the chocolate bits held their shape and created a sensation.  She called her new creation the Toll House Crunch Cookies.”

   “The Toll House Crunch Cookies became very popular with guests at the inn, and soon her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area.  Word of the cookie spread and it became popular.

   “This cookie became known nationally in 1939 when Betty Crocker used it in her radio series on ‘Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places.’  Ruth approached the Nestle company and together, they reached an agreement that allowed Nestle to print what would become the Toll House Cookie recipe on the wrapper of the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar.”

   “The company developed a scored semisweet chocolate bar with a small cutting implement so that making the chocolate chunks would be easier.  According to the story, part of this agreement included supplying Ruth with all of the chocolate she could use to make her delicious cookies for the rest of her life,” the website reads.

   Cookies can be a delightful treat or a huge disappointment. What’s worse than thinking you have a chocolate chip cookie only to bite into it and discover you have oatmeal raisin?  What a drag.

    But most cookie news is happy news.  So come back to Page 7 tomorrow, when we talk about cookies in the American culture and language.

   We will also talk about an American institution, Girl Scout Cookies, which could be classified as legal tender, or maybe a controlled substance. 

   Clean your plate and meet me here tomorrow for more dessert. 

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