Every Day is a Food Day

Cookies: Double Stuffed - Part 1!

June 21, 2022 Van Valin Productions & YumDay Season 3 Episode 30
Every Day is a Food Day
Cookies: Double Stuffed - Part 1!
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

There’s DOUGH much we want to tell you about cookies, we had to do it in two episodes! In Part 1 of this epic two-parter, Anna and Lia share their fondest cookie memories and tell us how letting their creativity go wild with cookie decorating was important part of their holiday traditions growing up. They also debate Oreo cookie eating methods — the twist and the dunk — and prove there’s no such thing as moderation when it comes to these sweet treats. Then Lia Ballentine, our Chef-Creator, digs into cookie history, presents the “cookie vs. biscuit” debate, and goes through an epic list of cookie holidays. Can you believe there are more than 15 cookie days to celebrate each year? She highlights some of the most interesting cookie days on the calendar (National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day?) then tells us about three important women who have made (and continue to make) a tremendous impact in cookies and culture: Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girls Scouts; Ruth Graves Wakefield, creator of the chocolate chip cookies; and Jasmine Cho, a cookie activist. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming next week, when Anna Van Valin, our Foodlosopher, discusses the century-long battle for the cookie aisle between Oreo and Hydrox!

More info from the show:
* Watch Jasmine Cho’s TEDx Talk: “Cookies as a Form of Activism”
* Listen to Phoebe tell another lie in this clip from “Friends” -

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 0:00:00.0 AVV: Hang on, though. Can we look at Spicy Hermit Cookie Day just for a minute? 


0:00:05.6 LB: Yes. [chuckle]


0:00:06.1 AVV: I'm definitely seeing like a sassy hermit crab, or...


0:00:09.7 LB: That's What I thought at first. [laughter]


0:00:11.3 AVV: An old wizened misanthrope who just throws out truth bombs.




0:00:20.7 AVV: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Every Day is A Food Day, a show about the stories, scandals, history and holidays behind your favorite foods.




0:00:45.4 LB: I'm Lia Ballentine, a chef creator.


0:00:46.3 AVV: And I'm Anna Van Valin, your resident foodlosopher. We have a surprise for you. Actually, it was a surprise for us too. A few months ago, Lia and I chose to do an episode about the prolific sweet treat that brings universal joy with a simple mention of its name: Cookies.


0:01:04.2 LB: But when we began taping, we realized what a crummy idea that was. How could we possibly fit everything there is to say about cookies into a single episode? 


0:01:14.4 AVV: Cookies are just not cut out to be a single episode food.


0:01:19.0 LB: So we decided to make our very first two-parter. This is part one and we'll be releasing part two next week.


0:01:25.5 AVV: Today you'll hear our stories of decorating artistically questionable, but delicious holiday cookies, Lia's soft spot for soft-baked cookies and how I mistook a foreign biscuit for health food for a really long time.


0:01:40.9 LB: Then, after an epic list of all the cookie holidays and a bit of cookie history, I'll tell you the semi-sweet story of the woman who invented the chocolate chip cookie, how the Girl Scouts got us hooked on thin mints while building an empire, and a revolutionary cookie activist.


0:01:55.6 AVV: Next week, we'll be back with a deep dish bigger than a baker's dozen, where I will tell you another story of a food rivalry stuffed with scandal, backstabbing and terrible marketing. This time, it's the century-long drama that created the most popular cookie in the world: Oreo versus Hydrox.


0:02:15.9 LB: So be sure to follow the show and check back next week for part two. If you wanna support this women and BIPOC-created independent podcast, give us some sugar, click the Buy Me a Coffee link in the show notes to help us cover the cost of production. And please leave us a rating and review.


0:02:30.5 AVV: For more delicious content about these foods and stories and a peak behind the scenes, check out the links in our show notes to visit our website, join our mailing list and connect with us on social media at @FoodDayPod, including our monthly IG lives. Earlier this month, we were joined live by Evan and Nick from the Drinking Horn Meadcast to discuss our crossover episode, A MEAD-ing of the Minds. And yes, they were drinking mead the whole time. Well, we've got a lot to cover, so let's start the show.




0:03:07.4 AVV: Hello Lia, how are you? 


0:03:08.7 LB: I'm doing well. And yourself? 


0:03:11.1 AVV: I mean, cookies.


0:03:12.9 LB: Everybody wants a cookie.


0:03:14.4 AVV: Everybody wants a cookie. Cookies make me so happy. Do you have any idea how many Oreos I've eaten this week? How many Oreos there are...


0:03:22.5 LB: Just this week.


0:03:24.0 AVV: In my home? 


0:03:25.6 LB: Well, Anna's a very thorough researcher, so I'm sure the number of Oreos [laughter] is quite high.


0:03:32.6 AVV: That's right, very thorough, and I had to really look at the breadth of the oeuvre of Oreo. Everything from the thins, which I don't understand...


0:03:45.1 LB: Like, why? 


0:03:45.4 AVV: All the way to the most stuff. Yeah, why the thins? Are there people out there that prefer the cookie, the chocolate cookie to the stuff? I don't know. I mean cookies really are the gift that keeps on giving because there's so many different kinds, but they are all basically delicious.


0:04:02.2 LB: They are. And that's why I love finding really great unique cookies for Yumday boxes.


0:04:09.3 AVV: Mm-hmm. What's your favorite cookie? 


0:04:10.7 LB: I would have to say I love Chewy Chips Ahoy.


0:04:15.6 AVV: Yeah? 


0:04:16.2 LB: There's just something about them. Soft-baked. I'm a soft-baked cookie person.


0:04:20.4 AVV: Yeah, you prefer that to like a crispier...


0:04:22.6 LB: Yeah.


0:04:23.0 AVV: Yeah.


0:04:23.6 LB: Yeah. So I go for Chewy Chips Ahoy.


0:04:25.3 AVV: Beautiful. Now, one of my sort of like at-the-end-of-a-long-day treats for myself was I'd pass the bodega on the way to my apartment from the subway stop, when I lived in New York, and I'd get one of those six packs of Soft Batch...


0:04:40.2 LB: Yes...


0:04:41.0 AVV: And then you put them in the microwave for like five seconds, 10 seconds, and it's like a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie that just came out of the oven.


0:04:49.9 LB: Oh, that sounds amazing. I like the microwave hack, a few seconds to warm it back up, it's like you're breathing life back into a soft-baked cookie.


0:05:00.2 AVV: And it unleashes the smell...


0:05:01.7 LB: Oh yeah.


0:05:02.1 AVV: The smell of fresh-baking cookies in your home...


0:05:05.2 LB: Yes.


0:05:05.5 AVV: So you could pretend that you baked. [laughter]


0:05:08.9 LB: Do you just put them on a pan and pretend they came straight out of your oven? 


0:05:13.1 AVV: I put on the apron and I'm like, "Honey, [laughter] I made cookies." But the smell of cookies does have that psychological link of home to us. Isn't it like realtors when they're setting up open houses, there's like the smell of chocolate chip cookies in a spray? They'll like spray it around the house to make it feel like a home.


0:05:34.4 LB: They're like, you gotta stage the house and make it smell like cookies.


0:05:37.7 AVV: Yeah. Sold! That's why all these housing prices are so high. [laughter] "I will pay anything for this house. Waive the inspection. Just let it smell like cookies."




0:05:47.5 LB: Then you move in and you're like, "We didn't get to keep that furniture or the cookie smell?"




0:05:53.8 LB: "Now there's just things I have to fix?"




0:05:55.9 AVV: Right. "The plumbing is shot. No one told me the plumbing is shot."


0:06:00.9 LB: So Anna, do you have any fond cookie memories? 


0:06:03.1 AVV: I mean every cookie memory, I am fond of. [laughter] But one of my fondest cookie memory comes from a holiday tradition on my mom's side of the family. So, Lia, I don't know if you remember my Grandpa Chet? 


0:06:19.2 LB: How can we not remember Grandpa Chet? He's like my favorite. Hello? The whole wine episode? 


0:06:25.7 AVV: Yes.


0:06:26.0 LB: Grandpa Chet is my hero. He is the champion of boxed wine.


0:06:30.9 AVV: He really is. Listeners, you'll remember our wine episode, I did a very scientific, objective, peer-reviewed study of what is the best container for wine and I looked at boxes, cans and bottles. There was criteria, there were checklists, there was a rating scale, whole thing. I believe I'm now cited in seven PhD dissertations.


0:06:57.1 LB: Of course.


0:06:57.2 AVV: Obviously.


0:06:57.8 AVV: Yeah.


0:07:00.3 LB: Primary source.




0:07:01.6 AVV: That was actually inspired by my Grandpa Chet, because one of his mottos was, "Wine bottles are for snobs." 'Cause he believed that the bottle was just to make the wine more expensive and it was just as good in boxes. And so he was like ride or die Franzia. The Franzia box of Cabernet, been on the counter at my grandparents' house since long before I came into the house, long before I was born anyway. So he'd been saying that my whole life, I wanted to test it out. So as you can see, he's a big personality, he's a character. Yeah, he is. He's a character. So if you haven't listened to that episode or you haven't listened to that episode in a while, roll back to season one and check it out.


0:07:43.8 LB: Learn all about Grandpa Chet, and then you'll totally understand how right this man is. [laughter]


0:07:50.5 AVV: I mean, he wasn't wrong-wrong.


0:07:53.0 LB: Yeah. [laughter]


0:07:54.1 AVV: My grandfather was a jazz musician, an incredible prolific jazz musician, and music was part of our lives everywhere. Everybody has to play an instrument. There was this joke that if you brought someone home, like a boyfriend or a girlfriend, the first thing my grandpa's gonna ask is, "What instrument do you play?"


0:08:12.4 LB: Oh.


0:08:12.8 AVV: Yeah. We have multiple family bands. [laughter]


0:08:17.1 LB: That's so cute.


0:08:18.2 AVV: Yeah, it's...


0:08:19.1 LB: I've always wanted to be in a family band.


0:08:20.2 AVV: We have multiple family bands and there's even... When they built their house, they built a stage into the living room.


0:08:27.1 LB: Love it.


0:08:28.1 AVV: And they were also pretty religious Christians, and so every year we would have a Christmas sing. This is what you need to know about my family, is my grandpa made our own hymnals, like song books, and had them bound. [laughter] So there's like Jaeger family Christmas songbooks.


0:08:47.4 LB: That's awesome.


0:08:48.8 AVV: And the band would come, the Night Blooming Jazzmen, but it's J-A-Z-Z-M-E-N not J-A-S-M-I-N-E, so a pun.


0:08:58.2 LB: I see the puns run deep.


0:09:00.9 AVV: The puns are strong. And we would sing the Christmas hymns, Christmas carols, and the jazz band would play with us. And it was really... It was just such a phenomenal tradition for like 70 years, from when my grandparents got married.


0:09:15.0 LB: That's incredible.


0:09:16.3 AVV: So we baked thousands of cookies for this thing.


0:09:21.7 LB: It sounds like you'd have to have at least 1000 for the number of people in your family that would be there.


0:09:27.1 AVV: There were Scotchies, which are oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips, which sounds like a weird combination, but they're incredible. There's ones that are like... They're like peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's Kiss in the middle.


0:09:37.7 LB: Oh, like a little drop in the center, yeah.


0:09:38.7 AVV: Yeah, like a drop in the middle. And then we make hundreds of sugar cookies with the cookie cutter, so in the different shapes. And the grandkids, of course, we're all in our 30s and 40s now, but the grandkids would have to decorate them. That was our job. And you'd run out of ideas pretty quick and things would get weird.




0:09:58.0 LB: What is the weirdest cookie decoration that has come out of a Jaeger family Christmas sing celebration? 


0:10:06.7 AVV: So they were probably all of the things that used the Santa cookie cutter shape. Like Santa got a lot of costumes, weird skin/hair combinations, there was alien Santas, dinosaur Santas. I think the Santa went through a lot of incarnations, sort of like if you imagine Santa as Barbie, there was like astronaut Santa, and it was just every Santa you could think of. But I have so many pictures of just the table. We would have to line up end-to-end folding table after folding table of these cookies. And the tradition was you have to make cookies until someone says, "Have you made enough cookies yet?" Usually an uncle, usually an uncle would say, "You think you've made enough cookies yet?" and then you stop. Yeah, and then it was a big deal with the parents. It was kind of like gifts on Christmas of the parents would be like, "You can have one cookie before the sing." So you would go in there and you'd look through... Look at the cookies through the Saran wrap and you'd be like, "Oh man, I've got this big decision."


0:11:11.0 LB: It's kind of torture.


0:11:12.3 AVV: Yeah, you gotta pick one to hold you over until after the sing. And then they would say like, "Okay, you can only have two, you can only have three." But give me a break. Come on. But then my grandparents of course, 'cause they kept everything, had a million tins, and so whatever was left over, they'd put them in the tins and freeze them so that when we were visiting in July and playing in the pool, my grandma would come out with the tin of the Christmas cookies. And it was so, so special. So that's really... I'll eat a cookie any day. I love cookies of all kinds. But when I think of cookies, I think of our massive display at the Christmas sing.


0:11:50.8 LB: That's such a sweet memory.


0:11:52.9 AVV: Yeah.


0:11:53.6 LB: I love it.


0:11:53.6 AVV: Do do have any cookie memories? 


0:11:55.6 LB: Decorating sugar cookies was always really fun. There was this Christmas fair in Knoxville that I used to go to every year, The Fantasy of Trees, and you would see...


0:12:03.7 AVV: Oh my God. [laughter]


0:12:04.5 LB: All of these crazy trees decorated in really unique ways, and the trees were always auctioned off, so it was like some sort of organization or charity would decorate like a Van Gogh Christmas tree and somebody could bid on it and buy it and it would all help raise money for various charities and organizations, so...


0:12:22.2 AVV: That's so cool! 


0:12:23.5 LB: Yeah. But at The Fantasy of Trees, there was a little place where you could go... The kids. They said kids, but I was going even as an adult, [laughter] go over to decorate sugar cookies. And I don't know what it is, sugar cookies are the best, but maybe just having the freedom of taking icing and sprinkles and letting your inner artist get loose and just throw whatever shit you [laughter] want on top of that was always so much fun. And of course, I would make a cookie and it would be so thick. It was probably more icing than cookie.


0:12:56.5 AVV: Sure.


0:12:57.3 LB: But God, I loved it. The trees were great, but I was really there for the sugar cookie [chuckle] decorating. I'm not gonna lie. [chuckle]


0:13:04.0 AVV: Yeah, I remember one year I decorated a cookie on a cookie. So it was a cookie, and then I made a smaller version of that same cookie and painted it in, so it was like super meta. I was really proud of it. It was like a cookie Inception.


0:13:17.6 LB: Whoa.


0:13:18.6 AVV: Yeah, or I'd make a black and white one, so it would be like rows of white chocolate chips and then rows of black chocolate chips. It would be like... And then I was like, "Oh, this looks like an old-timey prisoner cookie.




0:13:30.6 LB: Man, I'm craving cookies so much right now.


0:13:34.3 AVV: Cookies are what taught me that I cannot do moderation. I can't do it, really.




0:13:41.0 LB: How so? 


0:13:41.8 AVV: Oh my God, like one Oreo, no interest.


0:13:46.4 LB: No.


0:13:46.9 AVV: No interest in one... One Oreo can go to hell, honestly. I do not want one Oreo. I want the sleeve of Oreos.


0:13:53.6 LB: Yeah.


0:13:54.3 AVV: One chocolate chip cookie is not gonna do it for me. I wanna eat chocolate chip cookies till I go, "Oh man, I think I ate too many chocolate chip cookies."




0:14:02.8 AVV: I simply cannot do it. It's the reason why I can't have cookies now, except now, I have so many Oreos. I am, everyone, going to do a little experiment with Oreos and the stuff. I couldn't resist getting all the different sizes of Stuf, the Double Stuf, Mega Stuf, Most Stuf and I'm gonna do little experiments with their volume and weight and amount of stuff. So we'll put that on the Instagrams.


0:14:26.3 LB: Very exciting.


0:14:27.0 AVV: But I realized I can't have them in the house because I can't stop. And I'm not someone who's like, "I'll just have one slice of pizza." No, do not want it. I want the whole thing.


0:14:40.3 LB: Why just one? I think the cookie, like Oreos, and even the Chips Ahoy, has shown me just how OCD I am, because I want my... The sleeve finished. Or you're going to eat the cookies from that row first and finish the row before you jump to the next row. I'm just saying. I know some people who will skip rows and just grab their Oreos all willy-nilly from the package, but for me, I like to clean out each row.


0:15:05.5 AVV: Oh. Is it just 'cause aesthetically it looks more organized? Is it 'cause you're like giving yourself an excuse, saying, "Well, I have to finish this row. I can't leave a partial row like a barbarian"? 


0:15:18.4 LB: Yeah, I think it's a mix of both. It's, I can't just leave a little bit of the row left. I gotta eat that cookie. If there's just one in the row, like, why? I've gotta eat it. It really bugs me.


0:15:30.8 AVV: I get that. [laughter]


0:15:32.5 LB: Ooh. I know you'll talk about this more with Oreos and I was curious, do you dunk 'em? Are you a dunker? A twister? 


0:15:39.6 AVV: Man, you know what? I just fucking raw dog eat it.


0:15:44.5 LB: Really? 


0:15:45.3 AVV: I just chomp into it. I don't play around.


0:15:48.8 LB: Oh, okay.


0:15:49.6 AVV: Like dunking in milk is delicious and I will totally do that, but if I don't have milk, it will not slow me down.


0:15:55.1 LB: That's true. I've never let the lack of milk stop me from eating the Oreos. But if there's milk there, I will dunk all day. And I kinda like it when it gets really soggy, like it's almost about to fall off, but not...


0:16:09.4 AVV: Oh God, yeah. Then it falls off into your mouth. And then the milk is all like...


0:16:15.3 LB: Yeah.


0:16:15.4 AVV: Cookies and creamy.


0:16:16.3 LB: Yes.


0:16:17.1 AVV: Oh my God, it's so good. I'm gonna eat more. I'm gonna eat fricking more cookies now. Yeah, no, I do remember being a kid and seeing if you could get that clean twist. Oh, yeah.


0:16:28.9 LB: It was rare for me. I think I had trouble with the perfect twist that still kept the stuff on the side.


0:16:35.3 AVV: Oh, yeah, on one side? 


0:16:37.3 LB: Mm-hmm.


0:16:37.4 AVV: I just read about mechanical engineers at MIT just built something called an Oreo meter or an Oreometer, 'cause they wanted to figure out what the optimal way to do the twist was. And they actually published the designs for the Oreometer. It looks really cool. So you can 3D print it and do your own test because they wanted to see what it was that did the perfect twist. Was it the speed at which you twist? Was it the amount of pressure that you apply when you twist? What could it be? 


0:17:09.9 LB: So many factors to consider here, yeah.


0:17:11.4 AVV: So many factors. I just love that that that was... We'll talk about it, but that was one of their first marketing campaigns and kind of set the tone for the playfulness and being involved, like the way you eat your Oreo is part of... It's sort of like part of our relationship to it, right? They...


0:17:32.3 LB: Yeah.


0:17:32.8 AVV: Their advertising really centers around participating in eating the Oreo...


0:17:37.8 LB: That's true.


0:17:38.4 AVV: Making it your own, which is something I think really helped it catch on. So it's just amazing that that started as an ad on a trolley a 100 years ago and now engineers at MIT are building machines. [laughter]


0:17:53.3 LB: With like very well-funded grants...


0:17:55.3 AVV: Oh, absolutely.


0:17:55.5 LB: From other amazing research institutions.


0:18:00.3 AVV: They've already gotten the MacArthur Genius Award. There's Fulbright's scholarships involved. Yeah.


0:18:05.3 LB: Incredible.


0:18:06.8 AVV: So in your travels, we're both big travelers, have you seen any cookies that were super weird to you or surprised you in different countries? 


0:18:15.8 LB: I can't really think of anything that shocked me, like as a cookie culture shock.




0:18:21.0 AVV: I'm just imagining you, somebody handing you something weird and being like, "It's a cookie," and you're like, "Okay."




0:18:28.0 AVV: You say so.


0:18:29.3 LB: I mean, I think there was... When I was younger and confused about the cookie biscuit terminology...


0:18:34.6 AVV: Issue, yes.


0:18:34.6 LB: Yeah, that's where I was like, "Is this a cookie? This is not a cookie. Is this a cracker?" [laughter]


0:18:40.8 AVV: I studied abroad in England and their number one selling biscuit is called the digestive and you can get chocolate digestives, but like, the name is digestive, okay.


0:18:51.5 LB: Yeah.


0:18:53.7 AVV: Someday I will take a peek at why it's called that. I wonder if it's related to like Digestif, something like... Digestif is a liqueur you drink after you eat your meal to sort of help you digest, allegedly. So I wonder if that's related, Digestif, like a dessert. But it's called the digestive and that is not yummy-sounding.




0:19:12.1 LB: Right. Mm, digestives.


0:19:15.2 AVV: "Mm, I can't wait to digest this." But I remember looking at it and I was traveling, so I was having some digestive issues, and you know how here we have like Fiber One Granola Bars? [laughter]


0:19:28.4 LB: Yes.


0:19:28.8 AVV: So that's what I thought a digestive was. [laughter]


0:19:32.0 LB: Like, "Okay, you know what? I need this digestive. This will help me with my travel gut."


0:19:37.7 AVV: I needed some help with my travel gut. I was like, "This will help move things along." And it's like, it's got chocolate and I ate it and I was like, "This is really good. It's not helping in any way. Why do they call it this? It's not helping, but damn, these are good."


0:19:51.6 LB: Wow.


0:19:52.4 AVV: And it took a full semester for someone to be like, "Yeah, no, they're just called that, man." I thought I was being healthy, getting my fiber in. I was just straight up eating cookies.


0:20:02.5 LB: Oh, this reminds me of that Mean Girls lunch. [laughter]


0:20:08.7 AVV: The health bars they gave to starving children.


0:20:11.8 LB: "Enjoy these digestives."


0:20:13.1 AVV: Sorry, Regina George.


0:20:16.2 LB: Yes. [chuckle] Oh, that's good.


0:20:18.0 AVV: I'm ready to really dig into cookies. Are you? 


0:20:20.1 LB: Yeah. You wanna take a bite into cookies? 


0:20:22.6 AVV: Sink our teeth. We've already done that one.


0:20:24.9 LB: Let's stick our hands in the cookie jar.


0:20:26.9 AVV: Yeah, stick our hands in the cookie jar of knowledge.


0:20:31.5 LB: Oh, I like it.






0:20:37.4 AVV: Okay, Lia, so we all know what a cookie is to us. So we're all on the same page.


0:20:43.2 LB: Yeah.


0:20:43.8 AVV: What is cookie? 


0:20:46.4 LB: What is cookie? That's a wonderful...


0:20:46.7 AVV: What is cookie? 


0:20:48.6 LB: What is cookie? That is a good question. A cookie is basically a flour-based sweet cakey thing that you can hold in your hand and it usually has some sort of fat in it, which I like, [chuckle] like butter, shortbread cookies, great example of a flour-based cakey thing that's loaded up with a lot of fat. And you can have different flavors and textures for cookies. So, similar to the pretzel, cookies contain multitudes. You can add other things to it, like nuts, raisins, chocolate. It's kind of a canvas.


0:21:19.7 AVV: Right.


0:21:20.3 LB: And earlier when we were talking at the top of the episode, one of the things we said was like, how could you not like a cookie? First of all, the name cookie itself just sounds so sweet, right? 


0:21:31.5 AVV: Adorable.


0:21:32.0 LB: I know. And I've always wondered like, "Where did this name come from?" And so I read that it was derived from the Dutch word "koekje"...


0:21:39.4 AVV: Koekje.


0:21:40.1 LB: Which means little cake. And so that makes so much sense to call it a little cake. And then there's the other term for cookie that we discussed, is like biscuit. So what's the difference between a biscuit and a cookie? So if you look at the word biscuit, a lot of people will say it comes from the old French word "bisque", meaning twice cooked. So when you think about a biscuit that way and then you think about a cookie being a little cake, to me, biscuits are like the crispy versions and cookies are the chewier ones.


0:22:09.8 AVV: Right.


0:22:10.3 LB: That's just my theory. [laughter]


0:22:11.5 AVV: So a biscuit traditionally is like a cracker.


0:22:15.6 LB: It's a little harder.


0:22:16.6 AVV: It's harder. It's crispier. And it used to be savory, kind of exclusively savory. And then when they started making sweet versions of crackers, like of biscuits, it kept that term, biscuit.


0:22:31.9 LB: Interesting.


0:22:32.9 AVV: Our cakey version, I think is very much a North American thing, 'cause sometimes when you travel, it'll say American style cookies, which I was always like, "You mean the good ones?" So yeah, you're totally on the money that biscuit is more cracker-like.


0:22:47.8 LB: But then, let's not even bring like a southern biscuit into this, a fluffy southern biscuit.


0:22:52.7 AVV: That's another episode.


0:22:53.2 LB: That's another episode.


0:22:54.6 AVV: That's another episode.


0:22:55.5 LB: We definitely have to do that.




0:22:58.4 AVV: Okay, so the word seems to be derived from a Dutch word, but is there a place where cookies started? Like, is there an inventor of the cookie? 


0:23:09.5 LB: Well, we can't pinpoint an inventor of the cookie because there's been some form of cookie around forever. Cookies were thought to be little, just test cakes, which is where we get the little cake word from, that bakers would make in order to test the temperature of their ovens. Back in the day, they didn't really have like a dial or a readout that would say, "Alright, we've hit 425 degrees." You just had to...


0:23:32.9 AVV: There was no app.


0:23:34.2 LB: There was no app, no Bluetooth.


0:23:36.0 AVV: No smart ovens.




0:23:38.2 LB: Yeah. Your oven didn't sing to you or tell you that you've hit the optimal temperature. So when people were making cakes, they would take a little bit of that batter, and then stick it into their oven to see if it would start baking it and cooking it just right. And of course, why let that little piece of batter go to waste? So when it got all cooked up, you gotta eat it. And that's where...


0:23:56.8 AVV: I hate food waste.


0:23:58.4 LB: Yeah. You got cookies. So that's sort of where it started. But if you look back all the way to the seventh century AD in the Persian Empire, this was actually one of the first places to grow and harvest sugar cane and that's where we see more luxurious cakes and pastries being made. And so there were a lot of cookies that started to be baked at that time.


0:24:18.6 AVV: Right. I can see that, especially if they're experimenting with different recipes with these new ingredients, you'd wanna test them out.


0:24:24.4 LB: And testing it with sugarcane, I'm sure the first cookie that was made, [chuckle] that was just super sweet and sugary, must have delighted and surprised many people.




0:24:32.6 AVV: It's like the original mind-blown emoji, just like, "What?"




0:24:36.8 AVV: "What have I done?"


0:24:38.5 LB: And so as cane sugar began to spread, so did the popularity of the cookie. And by the end of the 14th century, you see in like Renaissance cookbooks, that there were cookie recipes in there...


0:24:49.1 AVV: Oh.


0:24:49.4 LB: Which was pretty neat.


0:24:50.3 AVV: Cool.


0:24:51.0 LB: Yeah. So folks were actually starting to document the making of these little cakes.


0:24:55.2 AVV: So it had shifted from just tests to the thing.


0:24:58.8 LB: Yeah. They're like, "You can eat this and it's delicious." [laughter]


0:25:03.2 AVV: I'll just stop right here.


0:25:04.5 LB: Yeah.


0:25:04.7 AVV: A little cake.


0:25:05.3 LB: It was probably way easier too, if you think about it, than having to create one large massive cake. If you could just do lots of smaller little cakes, they could probably bake faster.


0:25:14.4 AVV: Oh yeah, well, if you think about it, if you're making a sheet of cookies, it bakes in 10 minutes. If you're making a whole cake, it takes a half-hour.


0:25:21.5 LB: Yeah.


0:25:22.1 AVV: Bang, bang, bang.


0:25:23.1 LB: Exactly. So how do we get cookies in America now? So cookies were starting to spread all over Europe, and in the late 1600s we can thank our immigrants for bringing cookies here. So the English, Scotch and Dutch brought cookies to America and the cookies that they brought were a lot like the butter cookies that we're used to seeing over there, so that shortbread style cookie. But did you know that the first truly American cookie came out as a result of a recipe that was written in a cookbook by our girl, Amelia Simmons? 


0:25:53.9 AVV: Amelia Simmons, author of the first American cookbook.


0:26:00.5 LB: Yeah, that is right, the first truly all-American cookbook. She published it in 1796. It has recipes for cookies in there. And as we've talked about in the past, she also had a recipe for pumpkin pie and lots of first recipes for dishes that we see and enjoy as a truly American dish.


0:26:18.9 AVV: Can you just say the whole title, please? 


0:26:21.0 LB: Yes.


0:26:21.6 AVV: Okay. I love this.


0:26:22.6 LB: So this requires like a breathing exercise right before you say it. [laughter] Amelia Simmons' cookbook was called American Cookery or The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and The Best Modes of Making Puff Paste, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves and All Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plum to Plain Cake.


0:26:43.3 AVV: Literally covers everything.


0:26:44.4 LB: Yeah. So in case you were wondering what's in the cookbook, it's all that.


0:26:46.7 AVV: If you were looking for something specialized, narrow, really focused on one thing, this ain't it.




0:26:54.2 LB: I mean, it covers everything from Imperial plum to plain cake. Yeah.


0:26:57.6 AVV: Oh man. I've been looking for a great recipe for Imperial plum for ages.


0:27:04.0 LB: You need puff paste? Amelia's got you covered.


0:27:07.8 AVV: Viands? Get your viands right here. You could say she really wrote the book on American cookery. Is that a pun or just a fact? I don't know, but we're putting the bell in.


0:27:18.2 LB: I like it. So in this cookbook, Amelia actually had two recipes for cookies. So one was just your all-purpose general cookie, and then the other was for Christmas cookie that incorporated some spices in there for Christmastime. So it's pretty cool that she really immortalized and presented the cookie to America in this way with other American foods. And the cookies started to become more and more popular over the years, because just like the pretzel, we have industrialization to thank for that. Cookies started to be mass produced; they could be distributed all over. And I was reading this really cool article that said that the geographic development of the United States is reflected in popular cookie recipes. So over time, there started to be new cookie recipes that incorporated different types of ingredients, ones that you could only get thanks to the expansion of the railroad system that could bring ingredients from one region to another. So you would see cookies with fruits in them, cookies with nuts from the south, there are pecans in there...


0:28:17.1 AVV: Or pecans.




0:28:22.5 LB: Or pecans, if you insist, Anna. [laughter] And then even in the '30s, when cereal was on the rise and cereal products started to be distributed widely, thank you to Ella Kellogg for that.


0:28:34.6 AVV: Thank you, Ella Kellogg...


0:28:36.5 LB: Ella.


0:28:36.7 AVV: Creator of cereal. Ella.


0:28:38.4 LB: And only Ella.




0:28:39.4 AVV: Ella. The other guys were freaks. [laughter] The other guys made all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons that we don't need to talk about. Ella made the cereal.




0:28:53.2 LB: Yeah. Thanks to Ella and her cereal, you start to see cereal products being worked into cookie recipes, so that's why we get things like oatmeal cookies.


0:29:00.5 AVV: Oh.


0:29:00.8 LB: So it's pretty cool to see how cookie evolution matches up with the way America was growing and changing and how regional foods started to become national foods thanks to transportation.


0:29:13.0 AVV: Yeah, that really reminds me of our barbecue episode and how we went through all the different regions of barbecue.


0:29:19.7 LB: Yeah.


0:29:20.5 AVV: And how in South Carolina, barbecue was just pork, just pork, because they were the biggest pork farmers. And then when we get into like Memphis and Kansas City, those had a lot of like molasses and different spices and tomatoes because they were right on the Mississippi River, so they could get all of those ingredients.


0:29:37.6 LB: Right.


0:29:37.6 AVV: So the barges are going up and down bringing all those ingredients. So that's super interesting.


0:29:41.9 LB: You can see that same thing with cookies.


0:29:43.2 AVV: Yeah.


0:29:44.3 LB: And even in the 1930s, refrigeration was becoming a thing. So then icebox cookies started to become popular, and icebox cookies are basically your slice-and-bake cookies that you have today. So people were able to pre-make their cookie dough, and then refrigerate it, and then be able to take it out, slice it up and bake cookies easily.


0:30:02.6 AVV: Love it.




0:30:07.5 AVV: Both the combination of the popularity of cookies and the fact that there's so many kinds of cookies is leading me to believe that we might have one or two cookie holidays.


0:30:19.0 LB: Let's try 18 cookie holidays.


0:30:22.3 AVV: Eighteen? 


0:30:22.3 LB: Yeah.


0:30:22.8 AVV: Are we having an epic list right now? 


0:30:25.1 LB: We're having an epic list.


0:30:26.8 AVV: Oh yeah.




0:30:29.7 S?: Epic list time.


0:30:29.8 S?: Epic list.


0:30:32.9 LB: Yes, I have counted at least 18 cookie holidays on the food holiday calendar. There are probably more that I just didn't find because it was a weird cookie recipe that I'd never heard of or didn't search for, but there are 18 that I'm gonna read off to you right now in this epic list form. Okay.


0:30:48.0 AVV: Buckle up everyone.


0:30:50.2 LB: We have Girl Scout Cookie Day on February 8th, National Oreo Cookie Day, March 6th, Chocolate Chip Cookie Week, which is the second week of March, National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day, March 18th, National Chinese Almond Cookie Day, April 9th, National Oatmeal Cookie Day, April 30th, National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, June 12th, National Sugar Cookie Day, July 9th, Fortune Cookie Day, July 20th, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, August 4th, National Pecan Cookie Day, September 21st, Homemade Cookie Day, October 1st, National Cookie Month, October, National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day, November 15th, National Gingerbread Cookie Day, November 21st, National Cookie Cutter Week, the first week of December, National Cookie Day, December 4th, National Cookie Exchange Day, December 22nd.


0:31:35.8 AVV: Whoa.


0:31:37.5 LB: Yeah.


0:31:37.6 AVV: That's a lot.


0:31:39.3 LB: It's a lot of days. So what I'm gonna do is just focus on four of them, which I think are the most notable. And also, they are the only ones that actually have a verified origin because the rest of those cookie days were just people needing an excuse to eat their favorite cookies, at least that's what I think. I mean, good for them. [chuckle]


0:31:57.7 AVV: Absolutely. Hang on, though. Can we look at Spicy Hermit Cookie Day just for a minute? 


0:32:04.2 LB: Yes.


0:32:04.7 AVV: I'm definitely seeing like a sassy hermit crab, or like...


0:32:08.5 LB: That's what I thought at first.


0:32:10.0 AVV: An old wizened misanthrope who just throws out truth bombs.


0:32:16.9 LB: Yeah. No, there's no hermit crab involved in the Spicy Hermit Cookie Day, but there is sort of like hermit vibes on National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day.


0:32:25.9 AVV: Oh, like stay in.


0:32:28.1 LB: Stay in, yes. So that is a day to celebrate a nice spiced cookie, and because it's in November 15th, it's sort of the beginnings of fall, like you're really feeling those fall cozy vibes, and so you can have your little spicy hermit cookies, your spicy stay at home, stay cozy...


0:32:43.5 AVV: I love it.


0:32:44.1 LB: Chill with yourself cookie.


0:32:45.5 AVV: Everyone, I want you to think about a spicy hermit in your life.




0:32:50.5 LB: I love it. You know what? That's like goals. I wanna be a spicy hermit.


0:32:55.0 AVV: Absolutely. Okay, so, four most notable ones.


0:33:00.7 LB: Yeah.


0:33:00.8 AVV: I wanna hear them.


0:33:01.1 LB: Alright. One very special cookie day to call out is Girl Scout Cookie Day on February 8th, and that day was actually started by the Girl Scouts in 2013. So it's a little recent.


0:33:10.6 AVV: Okay.


0:33:11.0 LB: It's more recent of a celebration. But I'm gonna dig into the Girl Scout cookies here in a little bit, so...


0:33:15.6 AVV: Okay.


0:33:15.8 LB: Save it.


0:33:16.1 AVV: I'll put a pin in that.


0:33:17.4 LB: Put a pin in that.


0:33:18.8 AVV: A badge. Put a badge on that. Not quite there. Carry on.


0:33:23.3 LB: The other very special cookie holiday is National Cookie Cutter Week, which, it's not the actual cookie, we're talking about a device to make cookies.


0:33:33.1 AVV: Right.


0:33:33.5 LB: But this is on the first week of December and it was created by a woman in Kentucky named Paula Mullins, and she started this day in 1996. So Paula was an avid baker, a cookie cutter collector and she felt like there just needed to be a time to recognize cookie cutters, the just wide variety of them, the special styles. So she actually started a petition to make this an official week. And so she would go around her town gathering signatures and if you signed the petition, she would give you a horse head cookie cutter, and that's because she's in Kentucky.


0:34:06.1 AVV: Oh I'm so glad you said you said cookie cutter. [laughter] The pause after...




0:34:09.8 LB: Just a horse head.


0:34:11.4 AVV: The pause after horse head gave me pause. Okay, a horse head cookie cutter. This makes sense though, 'cause I can totally see that if you have cookie-making as a hobby or cookie-decorating as a hobby, you're probably always in search of different shapes to play with. And I don't know if it's easy to make on your own or not, this totally strikes me as something that people would like trade, collect, totally.


0:34:38.1 LB: Yeah. Well, she got obviously enough people to sign this petition. She raised it to local government and they were like, "Yes, we can... We're gonna recognize cookie cutter week for you."


0:34:48.5 AVV: Oh, Kentucky.


0:34:50.9 LB: Kentucky, [laughter] the home of the horse head cookie cutter. So Paula started the special celebration and as part of it, every year she would make a very unique cookie cutter to celebrate the year. So if you head to cookiecuttercollectorsclub.com, this is the group that is continuing this tradition year after year; you can actually see all of the special cookie cutters that were made for this celebration from 1996 to present day. And some of them are really cute, there's like a little fox one, so I thought of you Anna when I saw the fox.


0:35:23.8 AVV: That's my favorite animal.


0:35:24.5 LB: And then the 2020 cookie cutter is a monster, which I thought was perfect.


0:35:29.8 AVV: That tracks. [laughter] I thought it was gonna be like a virus.




0:35:33.3 LB: Ooh.


0:35:33.7 AVV: The shape of a virus.


0:35:35.5 LB: You know what? That would be good. Maybe it was too hard to make all the points.


0:35:40.1 AVV: The spikes. What are they called? The spikes, yeah.


0:35:43.2 LB: Yeah. Maybe somebody can do a variant...


0:35:47.2 AVV: Yeah.


0:35:47.5 LB: A set of COVID variant cookie cutters.


0:35:50.0 AVV: A whole set, or like a mask...


0:35:51.9 LB: Oh.


0:35:52.1 AVV: With the loops, that could be a good one.


0:35:53.7 LB: A mask one would be good. That's really good. Hey, Cookie Cutter Collectors Club...


0:35:57.8 AVV: Dot com.


0:36:00.0 LB: Yeah, mask cookie cutters, please.


0:36:01.9 AVV: Call us. [chuckle]


0:36:03.8 LB: Yeah, I thought that one was a really interesting...


0:36:05.5 AVV: That is super sweet.


0:36:06.4 LB: Sort of special cookie holiday.


0:36:08.5 AVV: Maybe we wouldn't have had to make so many weird Santas if we had some more options.


0:36:11.2 LB: That's true. That's all you needed, just more options for cookie cutters.


0:36:15.7 AVV: With their cookie cutters.




0:36:19.3 LB: And then we have National Cookie Day, the ultimate day to celebrate cookies on December 4th. And guess who started this day? 


0:36:26.2 AVV: Who? 


0:36:28.6 LB: Cookie Monster.


[music] “C is for Cookie” from Sesame Street


0:36:44.7 AVV: Yay! 


0:36:46.7 LB: Yeah, so in 1976, Sesame Street had a calendar that they had published and they included National Cookie Day on the calendar. And actually back then it was November 26th that they had this cookie day.


0:37:00.0 AVV: Okay.


0:37:00.4 LB: And then Cookie Monster in the 1980s started to proclaim and shout out National Cookie Day, and you could find National Cookie Day in the Sesame Street dictionary. I mean, of course, who better to champion cookie day than Cookie Monster? 


0:37:12.5 AVV: I mean, he would know.


0:37:13.8 LB: Right. He knows everything there is to know about cookies.


0:37:16.7 AVV: Oh yeah, so I believe him.


0:37:18.8 LB: And then the day actually shifted to December 4th in the mid-'80s when a cookie company started to promote Cookie Day, and I think just the majority of that marketing, [chuckle] how the Internet switched like Cookie Days from November 26th to December 4th. I say celebrate on both days.


0:37:35.5 AVV: Yeah.


0:37:37.5 LB: Yeah.


0:37:38.6 AVV: And also, I can't imagine that Cookie Company was not inspired by Cookie Monster. So really, it's just continuing that tradition. So we can say it came from Cookie Monster.


0:37:47.7 LB: Exactly, yeah. So thanks Cookie Monster, for National Cookie Day. And then on December 22nd... December's full of eating cookies and cakes, but on the 22nd of December...


0:37:54.7 AVV: December's for eating.


0:37:56.1 LB: You have National Cookie Exchange Day, and this day was actually created by one of our favorite food holiday people that we've mentioned in the past named Jace Shoemaker-Galloway. And if that name sounds familiar to you out there, it's because we talked about her in our wine episode as she is the creator of National Wine and Cheese Day on July 25th.


0:38:18.0 AVV: Hero.


0:38:19.0 LB: Hero.


0:38:19.1 AVV: Hero.


0:38:22.7 LB: Yep, thanks to her creating National Wine and Cheese Day, that's how we get House Wines and the Cheez-It collaboration.


0:38:27.0 AVV: Oh, my gosh. You guys, if you are not familiar with this, scroll through our Instagram. Every year they put out a wine and Cheez-It pairing and it's in one box and half the side of the box is the boxed wine and the other half is filled with Cheez-Its. And a couple years ago, it was Rose and white cheddar...


0:38:45.6 LB: Rose, yeah.


0:38:46.1 AVV: Cheez-It, oh, my goodness.


0:38:47.9 LB: Perfect pairing.


0:38:49.7 AVV: So she's a genius and we should all exchanges cookies on the 22nd.


0:38:54.1 LB: Yes. Those are the most important days for me.


0:38:56.2 AVV: Love it.




0:39:01.2 AVV: So much history behind cookies, so many holidays. We've already talked about a couple of important people and monsters related to these cookie holidays. Are there any other cookie people that stood out to you? 


0:39:12.9 LB: Yes.


0:39:13.5 AVV: Names we should know.


0:39:14.8 LB: Names we should know. So we need to know these three names for sure. The first one is Juliette Gordon Low, who was the founder of the Girl Scouts. The second one, Ruth Graves Wakefield, who invented our favorite cookie ever. And the third is Jasmine Cho, who is doing amazing things with cookies today.


0:39:34.7 AVV: Love it.


0:39:35.6 LB: So Juliette Gordon Low is the founder of the Girl Scouts, and I mentioned earlier, Girl Scout Cookie Day is February 8th. So Juliette... People called her Daisy; that was like her nickname. I think that's why we have Daisy Scouts before you get into being a Brownie.


0:39:51.2 AVV: Oh.


0:39:51.5 LB: Yeah. So we're gonna call her by her nickname, Daisy.


0:39:53.2 AVV: Okay.


0:39:55.6 LB: Daisy started the Girl Scouts in 1912 in her hometown, Savannah, and she did this because she had met the person who had started the Boy Scouts and had heard about Girl Guides and thought, "We need to have this for our girls here in my community, in my country."


0:40:11.6 AVV: Yeah.


0:40:11.7 LB: "So I'm gonna create our own scouting troop where we can learn all kinds of things, everything from things we can do at home to what we can do to prepare ourselves for school and the professional world." So in 1912, Juliette Gordon Low/Daisy started the Girl Scouts of America. And the scouts grew. I think it grew faster than she even thought it could because a few years later, they had like 20,000 scouts all over the US. And as they were continuing to grow, troops needed to find a way to finance their troop activities. So one chapter came up with the idea to bake and sell cookies and they thought, "This is great. It's a wonderful home economics project, we learn to bake, we have our baking mentors and advisors, and then we also learn business and financial literacy with the sale of the cookies." And it became successful. So they were able to raise funds for their troop to continue to do all of these other activities, earn their badges, learn new things and keep growing.


0:41:08.1 AVV: Wow.


0:41:09.1 LB: So when cookie sales became a national thing, it was in 1922, and that's because a person published a recipe in the American Girl Magazine, which was the Girl Scouts of America's own magazine, and that recipe included all the ingredients needed to make this fantastic cookie that you could sell. And as part of that story, the pricing of the ingredients and how much you should sell the cookies for was included, which was really cool.


0:41:33.1 AVV: Right. 'Cause it was about setting up a little business, teaching them how to set up that business, how to track your inventory, how to set prices, how to check your income and revenue. It was to teach them skills, not just to raise money for activities, right? 


0:41:47.4 LB: Mm-hmm. Exactly. I thought that was so neat. [chuckle]


0:41:49.7 AVV: In the most delicious way.


0:41:51.7 LB: That's right. So now you know how to make this cookie and you know how to sell it and how to market it. So by the 1930s, all of these local chapters were starting to bake and sell cookies. They started to get savvy with their marketing too, and so that's where you see the Girl Scouts end up learning how to license commercially-baked cookies beyond just making their own, 'cause they were doing everything at home by hand, but they realized, "Hey, if we can learn licensing, we can strike deals with commercial bakeries to make the cookies for us that we sell."


0:42:20.6 AVV: Wow.


0:42:21.0 LB: And then things began to boom when the popularity of suburbs was just on the rise, post-war, people were able to do door-to-door sales, sell to the neighbors. They started to create new flavors like the thin mint in the 1950s. So the Girl Scout cookies really became a thing. And I love that the way Juliette Gordon Low set this all up when she launched the Girl Scouts was, "It's not just about making these foods or learning how to take care of yourself at home, it's also about building a business and how to be self-reliant, how to create independence and be able to support yourselves in this way." So it was kind of great that she kicked off the sort of entrepreneurial vibe that the Girl Scouts have.


[video playback] 1970s Girl Scouts of America PSA about cookies


0:43:01.8 S3: What's cooking? Democracy, self-reliance and good citizenship. Girl Scout cookies help make it possible for girls to practice the art of democracy, to develop their self-reliance and to be good citizens. Keep Girl Scouting happening in your community. Buy...


0:43:24.4 S4: Girl Scout cookies.


0:43:29.4 LB: And so today, we see so many amazing Girl Scout cookie flavors. They have vegan cookies, kosher cookies, Halal cookies, and more. And Girl Scout cookies are actually one of the top cookie brands in America right behind Oreo.


0:43:43.6 AVV: Wow. Do you remember when we were working in the studio, some of our colleagues had kids, had daughters, and they would sell Girl Scout cookies? They would just walk around desk-to-desk, office-to-office and be like, "It's Girl Scout Cookie time."


0:43:57.4 LB: Oh, yeah. [chuckle]


0:44:00.0 AVV: And then, there was someone on my floor who, her daughter, I was like, "She is the next top Forbes CEO," because she would walk around... They had like a Radio Flyer wagon filled with Girl Scout cookies and she came by my desk and I was like, "How much are they?" and she was like, "They're $5 a box or four for $20."


0:44:19.6 LB: Oh, she's good. She is good.


0:44:22.2 AVV: And I was like, "Wow, that's a deal. Wait a minute."


0:44:25.7 LB: She got you. [chuckle]


0:44:27.0 AVV: They would come around with this wagon and it wouldn't be entirely full, it would look like there were boxes missing and I was like, "Wow, look at you. Great job. You've sold almost all of them," and she goes, "There's like 20 more boxes in my dad's office." So she was... They were literally...


0:44:44.8 LB: She was creating the demand. [laughter]


0:44:45.4 AVV: Creating scarcity. She was literally creating the demand by pulling around this wagon and having it look like things were missing so that people would be like, "Oh man, I don't want her to run out of thin mints. The tag-alongs are getting low." It was a total lie.


0:45:00.4 LB: But it worked. [chuckle]


0:45:00.5 AVV: So wherever she is at Harvard Business School or Silicon Valley, I salute you.


0:45:06.2 LB: Thanks to the Girl Scouts for creating these really resilient, tough, go-get-'em entrepreneurs.


0:45:14.0 AVV: Yeah, and those are messages that girls still don't get.


0:45:17.1 LB: That is true.


0:45:17.7 AVV: You can be ambitious, you can build something, you can want money and deal with money and have that independence to build something of your own. So every time that you eat, what are they, Samosa? 


0:45:29.7 LB: Oh God, Samoas.


0:45:30.8 AVV: Every time you eat a Samoa, you are supporting future entrepreneurs of America.


0:45:35.7 LB: That's right. I say that every year, there's 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies sold...


0:45:41.8 AVV: Oh my God.


0:45:42.4 LB: Which is $700 million in sales, but 75% of that goes back to the local council, which is amazing, and it's really like they are sustaining their troop and their troop activities and creating this way for girls to grow and learn with each other.


0:46:00.2 AVV: Yeah.


0:46:01.5 LB: Pretty cool.


0:46:01.4 AVV: Alright, who's next? 


0:46:01.5 LB: Alright, next up, Ruth Graves Wakefield.


0:46:04.7 AVV: Another amazing Ruth.


0:46:06.1 LB: Another amazing Ruth. We've got some great Ruths on the show.


0:46:08.3 AVV: We've got some great Ruths. Ruth Desmond, peanut butter grandma, some great Ruths.


0:46:12.7 LB: Well, Ruth Graves Wakefield is the person that we need to thank for the chocolate chip cookie.


0:46:18.7 AVV: Thank you, Ruth.


0:46:19.8 LB: The best cookie ever.


0:46:22.0 AVV: The best.


0:46:23.2 LB: It is consistently number one when people are asked, "What flavor do you like the most?" "Chocolate chip cookies." So Ruth was born in 1903 in Massachusetts, and she was a teacher, a dietitian, a chef, an author and business owner, just all the things.


0:46:39.0 AVV: Just like multi-hyphenate.


0:46:40.6 LB: But she's best known for being the inventor of the Toll House cookie, which is the first chocolate chip cookie ever.


0:46:47.1 AVV: Oh wow. Really? 


0:46:48.4 LB: Yeah.


0:46:48.8 AVV: Okay.


0:46:49.4 LB: So there's an interesting story behind it. Some people say that the cookie was created by accident, which is a myth, but I'll explain.


0:46:56.8 AVV: Okay.


0:46:57.4 LB: So in the 1930s, Ruth and her husband bought an inn in Massachusetts called the Toll House Inn. So it was there where Ruth started to really make a name for herself as an amazing chef. So people would come, stay the night at the inn and it was like a little bed and breakfast. But her food was so good that people were just coming to the inn. They didn't need to stay, they just wanted to eat. They just wanted to eat.




0:47:15.6 AVV: "Keep your bed. I'm just here for the breakfast."


0:47:20.2 LB: So she was making amazing dinners, amazing desserts, and Ruth was someone who was always just like upping her game each time. And she wanted to create a new sort of cookie, something unique and delicious to give to her guests, so she was experimenting. And one story goes is that she was trying to make a traditional colonial recipe for something called a butter drop do cookie, which is actually in Amelia Simmons' cookbook, again.


0:47:44.0 AVV: It's all connected everyone. Food stories are people stories, and apparently it's like the same 10 people. [laughter]


0:47:49.1 LB: It's the same 10 people, [laughter] Amelia, a Ruth, one of the Ruths...


0:47:54.8 AVV: Amelia, Ruth, James Hemings, Johnny Appleseed, that's it.


0:48:00.1 LB: Yeah.


0:48:00.5 AVV: It's a closed circle.




0:48:01.8 LB: Well, when Ruth was trying to make this recipe, it called for baker's chocolate, which would typically just melt when you mixed it and baked it in with the batter, but she didn't have baker's chocolate on hand, what she did have was Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate, just a bar of that. So she thought, "I'm just gonna take this, break it up into little pieces and throw it in the batter, and then it'll melt, it'll work its way into the batter as it bakes." But it didn't, so all the chunks of chocolate were pretty much preserved, they didn't melt away. But when she ate it, it gave her this new sensation, a new type of bite, texture, the sweetness was really popping with those chocolate chunks and she thought, "This is fantastic," served it to her guests and that's how we get the Toll House chocolate chip cookie. So folks were saying it was invented on accident, but I did read a report that said, "You know what? Ruth knew what she was doing."


0:48:48.4 AVV: Uh, yeah.


0:48:48.8 LB: She wanted to make something different and this was very intentional.


0:48:52.1 AVV: Yeah, that's a little condescending to think that she just happened upon it. You're right, she knew what she was doing.


0:49:00.4 LB: She knew what she was doing.


0:49:00.9 AVV: She was making up new recipes all the time.


0:49:01.0 LB: Exactly. And she had a popular cookbook where she would include a lot of these recipes, and in 1938, in that edition of her cookbook, it had been reprinted many times already as she was coming up with new recipes, she included her Toll House cookie in the cookbook. And so there are a couple of reasons why people say the chocolate chip cookie became really popular. One was that during World War II, soldiers from Massachusetts would get Toll House cookies in their care packages, and then they would share it with their fellow soldiers who then wanted to know, "Where can I get this cookie? And when I go back home, how can I have more of this cookie?" The other reason they say the chocolate chip cookie spread is because in 1939, Betty Crocker mentioned it on her radio series, Famous Foods from Famous Eating Places, and soon everyone everywhere was asking for this chocolate chip cookie. [chuckle]


0:49:52.6 AVV: Wait, so she had a food radio show...


0:49:56.7 LB: Uh-huh.


0:49:57.2 AVV: That was about famous foods from famous places? 


0:50:00.6 LB: Yes.


0:50:01.3 AVV: So did Betty Crocker invent the food podcast? 


0:50:05.3 LB: She totally did! 


0:50:06.3 AVV: She totally invented the food podcast.


0:50:08.3 LB: Yep.


0:50:09.5 AVV: We are carrying on a long tradition...


0:50:11.9 LB: That's right.


0:50:12.5 AVV: Of the food podcast. I love that.


0:50:15.1 LB: By the way, Betty Crocker is not a real person, so we don't get it confused with Johnny Appleseed. [laughter]


0:50:17.0 AVV: What? My God. I cannot keep track.


0:50:23.5 LB: Or Auntie Anne.


0:50:25.4 AVV: Lia, I swear, if you had ask me to bet money on who was a real person, Johnny Appleseed or Betty Crocker, I would have 1000% lost money. I would have put it all on Betty Crocker.




0:50:34.2 LB: Yeah, Betty Crocker is the result of really great advertising. So she was a persona and this image that marketing guys made to represent this baking brand and it just grew. So there have been, on this radio show, different actresses played Betty Crocker.


0:50:49.4 AVV: So she's like a character? 


0:50:50.5 LB: Yeah.


0:50:50.9 AVV: She's like the Spider-Man. [laughter]


0:50:52.9 LB: Yeah, she was like the Spider-Man. There's a Betty Crocker multiverse.




0:51:00.9 AVV: So many origin stories. Man, yeah.


0:51:02.2 LB: Yeah, so basically Ruth got on a podcast and became really popular after that. [laughter]


0:51:10.1 AVV: Awesome.


0:51:11.0 LB: And of course, as cookie sales increased, so did the sales of those Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate bars. And Nestle was like, "Hey, there's something here with these Toll House cookies." So Nestle and Ruth made a deal and Nestle bought the exclusive rights to the Toll House name, the Toll House recipe, and they let Ruth also use Nestle semi-sweet chocolates forever...


0:51:32.2 AVV: Well, yeah.


0:51:32.7 LB: For free, I think. So it wasn't a bad deal. And that's why we see the Toll House recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip packages.


0:51:43.6 AVV: Oh yeah.


[video playback] Clip from “Friends” 


0:51:44.3 Monica: Well, I mean, what about friends of your grandmothers? Wouldn't they have the recipe? 


0:51:49.9 Phoebe: Well, I may have relatives in France who would know. My grandmother said she got the recipe from her grandmother, Nestle Toll House.




0:52:00.7 MONICA: What was her name? 


0:52:02.5 PHOEBE: Nestle Toll House.




0:52:08.6 MONICA: Nestle Toll House? 




0:52:15.6 PHOEBE: You Americans always butcher the French language.




0:52:18.3 MONICA: Phoebe, is this the recipe? 


0:52:24.6 PHOEBE: Yes! [laughter]

[end video]


0:52:28.7 AVV: So when did they start making chocolate chips? Did they start making chocolate...


0:52:31.1 LB: Yeah.


0:52:31.4 AVV: The chocolate pieces for these cookies? 


0:52:34.8 LB: Right, so what happened was they were making the bars and people were buying more and more. So they actually then released another version of the bar where they had it scored so it was easy to break up.


0:52:43.9 AVV: Okay.


0:52:44.7 LB: But then they were like, "We gotta make it easier," and then that's when the morsels were invented.


0:52:48.8 AVV: I love that.


0:52:50.4 LB: The chocolate bar evolved because of Ruth's cookie recipe.


0:52:54.0 AVV: Awesome. And then you can put chocolate chips in everything, in your brownies...


0:53:00.0 LB: That's right.


0:53:00.3 AVV: In your birthday cake.


0:53:01.0 LB: Yep.


0:53:01.1 AVV: Thanks, Ruth, so good.


0:53:02.4 LB: And also, thanks to Ruth, Massachusetts made the chocolate chip cookie its official state cookie, passed this, by law, in July of 1997.


0:53:10.7 AVV: Very important.


0:53:11.5 LB: Yeah, very important. By the way, I just have to say when I was looking up Massachusetts law, I was digging into part one, title one, chapter two of the law book that talked about all of the other emblems of the Commonwealth.


0:53:24.5 AVV: I love part one, title one, chapter two.


0:53:26.7 LB: Yeah, it's the best chapter.


0:53:27.6 AVV: It's the best one, yeah.


0:53:29.9 LB: Section 41, if you wanna know the official state dessert, the Boston cream pie is the official dessert of the Commonwealth.


0:53:36.9 AVV: Makes sense.


0:53:38.1 LB: And then I looked up in section 40, Johnny Appleseed is the official folk hero of the Commonwealth.


0:53:45.7 AVV: What? 


0:53:46.0 LB: Yeah.


0:53:46.0 AVV: Oh my God.


0:53:47.1 LB: Johnny Appleseed's back.


0:53:49.3 AVV: In the law, in black and white, Johnny Appleseed was real. He was a hero.


0:53:53.6 LB: Yep.


0:53:54.5 AVV: He's just spreading cider up and down the east coast.


0:54:00.1 LB: That's right. [chuckle] And so the last person I wanna mention is Jasmine Cho. Jasmine Cho is an incredible baker and she is a cookie activist. And I wanna spotlight her for a couple of reasons. Number one, her cookies, they're amazing. She does these cookie portraits, they look so good. And number two, Jasmine Cho is a woman today who is using cookies to elevate the stories of underrepresented people in just the most unique and tasty way possible.


0:54:27.7 AVV: Wonderful.


0:54:28.4 LB: Yeah, Jasmine is the founder of an online bakery called Yummyholic and this is actually where she started to make custom cookie portraits for people. And she really just gravitated towards cookies because she saw them as a blank canvas, much like we were talking about at the very beginning, like what is a cookie? What could you do with a cookie? And so she saw the cookie as a way for her to express her art and her emotions and to use it as storytelling. And I remember the first time I saw her cookies on Instagram, I was just blown away at the detail of a cookie portrait. I mean, there's no way that I could ever do that.


0:55:01.5 AVV: Wow.


0:55:01.9 LB: Like if you saw my sugar cookie-decorating, yeah, I don't have that touch. [chuckle]


0:55:07.3 AVV: I told you, my high point was just rows of chocolate chips.




0:55:10.7 LB: Right. But what she's able to do and express through these cookie portraits is incredible, and that she chooses to highlight really specific people that have moved culture forward that we don't know about, much like what we try to do on this show is just, it's so remarkable to me and just that she's doing this in a fun way too through cookies is so neat. So here's a clip from her TED Talk, where she talks about how she uses these cookies to tell these stories that need to be heard and how cookies are actually a way for her to connect with her past.


[video playback]


0:55:43.6 Jasmine Cho: I already knew how limitless the cookie canvas truly was. You can create anything with a little bit of sugar, food coloring and imagination. I had started making face cookies and noticed how they were so effective in capturing people's attention more than anything else. So knowing that I had a means to capture people's attention, I wanted to direct it towards the issues that mattered most to me. So this is how I started telling Asian American stories through cookie art. Like the story of a Afong Moy, who was the first known immigrant woman from China who came to the US in 1834.


0:56:23.5 Jasmine Cho: She was brought over by brothers Frederick and Nathaniel Kane who were US-China tradesmen. They put Afong up on display as part of a New York exhibit that showed off various Chinese curiosities and they presented her as the beautiful Chinese lady. The Kane brothers used Afong as a marketing strategy, hoping to attract viewers to buy their goods from China while having a chance to gawk at a Afong's four-inch little feet.


[end video]


0:56:54.0 AVV: Wow, she's really impressive.


0:56:55.7 LB: She really is. I mean, cookies as a form of activism is something I never would've thought of, but when you realize, again, what food means and what food can do as a way to connect people and expose you to new cultures and ideas, then it does make perfect sense.


0:57:12.1 AVV: Absolutely. And we've seen that all throughout the different hidden figures, food heroes that we've talked about, is they just sort of started where they were. I would never have thought that pumpkin pie could be used for social good to unify a country, or that maple syrup would be part of the anti-slavery movement, but if you start where you are and look at what you can do and what you love and what you have access to and leverage that for a cause that you really believe in, like she's... Jasmine Cho is perfect proof that that can work. Hopefully we are too with what we're doing.


0:57:44.3 LB: Yeah. Okay Anna, so we've talked about cookie history, cookie holidays and cookie people. And now I'm super excited to hear from you in the Deep Dish, all about the number one cookie brand around the world, the Oreo cookie.


0:58:00.0 AVV: It really is, it's astonishing. We all know Oreo, we love them, but I started looking up stats about Oreos and I just stopped. There was no point because it doesn't matter. There's nothing that compares to the popularity of Oreo, the amount of money it makes, the number of kinds that there are, and it outsells every other cookie by multiples and then you think that it was actually kind of a rip-off of another cookie that they literally stopped making and we're gonna... [laughter] We are gonna dive deep in the Deep Dish into all of that cookie drama when we come back.


0:58:37.9 LB: Nice.


[music] “C is for cookie” from Sesame Street


0:58:46.9 AVV: Thanks for joining us for part one of our cookie double episode. We'll see you next week for part two.


0:58:52.7 LB: Be sure to follow the show and catch up on past episodes wherever you get your podcast. Connect with us on social media at @FoodDayPod, join our mailing list through our website, yumday.co/podcast and don't forget to leave us that rating and review.


0:59:06.5 AVV: The clips of music you heard today were from the Girl Scouts of America, Sesame Street, Friends from NBC Universal and the Ted Talk, How I Use Cookies to Teach History, by Jasmine Cho.


0:59:16.3 LB: Every Day is a Food Day is a production of Van Valin Productions and Yumday. It is produced and hosted by us, Lia Ballentine and Anna Van Valin.



Cookie Banter
Cookie History
Cookie Holidays
Cookie Heroes