The State of the Cookie

This Conversation Is Making Me Hungry
What to eat. What not to eat.
Dec. 12 2008 5:03 PM

The State of the Cookie


Hi again, Sara and David,

On a sugar high from all our cookie talk, I went straight to the kitchen to bake—and to clear my head. Because cookies demand hawklike attention, as David said, and because, as Sara pointed out, every step in the cookie-making process is a pleasure, baking focuses me. There's something almost Zen-like in the repetition. Not that I understood the value of routine when I was fired from my first job after changing the restaurant's signature dessert … Actually, given what we've said about how Americans like to tinker with every recipe, maybe I wasn't done in by "creative insubordination"—that's what my boss called it—but rather by something nationalistic.


Speaking of things nationalistic, like David, I hope the Girl Scouts make their annual appearance. However, I'm not sure our neighborhood scout will be knocking on doors again. Last year, thinking the cookies had become too expensive, she sold them under duress and her opening line was, "You might not want to buy these." With this year's economy, who knows what she'll say.

But even if our supply of Thin Mints isn't guaranteed, the survival of some bedrock cookie customs, like disassembling Oreos and decapitating animal crackers, is assured. Sara, thank goodness you're teaching your son the proper way to eat cookies! Of course, I'm blithely assuming that Oreos and animal crackers have a future. But if the healthy cookie you both talked about becomes the norm, they, as well as my beloved Mallomars, could be (multigrain) toast, and that would be too sad. While I'm all for health, I'm not convinced we need a healthy cookie. I'm reminded of Julia Child, who ate all manner of things and counseled, "Everything in moderation." A cookie or three a day won't hurt if your diet is basically sound.

And I'm with you, David, on the need for cookies to be made with great ingredients. In fact, I think that's the future of the cookie. While the techno-chefs are deconstructing, gelifying, and atomizing desserts, I think we home bakers, and the people who buy cookies in supermarkets and bakeries, will be looking for a better cookie, one made with good butter, pure extracts and spices, organic milk and cream, premium-quality chocolate, and, if not whole grains, then organic flour. As you both mentioned, the ingredients might get more exotic—think flavored salts (David makes terrific seaweed-fleur de sel sables), savory herbs, and, yes, maybe even the saltines Sara talked about—but I'm not sure cookies are really going to change much. Sara, you asked if there might be a cutting-edge cookie technology, like Silpat, and I thought and thought, came up blank, and then decided it would be hard to bring cookies into the techno age—they're almost too basic.

And too basic is the way I hope they'll stay. Baking evangelist that I am, it's my dream that the cookie of the future will be homemade and that, even if it's baked in a space-age oven on silicone mats with the trendiest mix-in, it will be, like great cookies past and present, fun to eat, satisfying, and comforting.

Yours in chips, crunch, and crumbs,


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