Rant: Why Tinker With the ‘World’s Greatest Cookie?’

  • Oreo's countless varieties of flavors can, as one reviewers says, ruin a perfectly good cookie. (Valley News - Liz Sauchelli) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The first Oreo flavor to make my eyes roll was root beer float, in 2014. I was in the aisle of a local grocery store and the offending package inspired a stream of annoyed mumbling, the kind I usually reserve for people who don’t use their turn signals while entering the McDonald’s drive thru on Interchange Drive.

After that, I started keeping an eye out for other odd flavors, photographing them for evidentiary purposes. Soon they begin to fill my phone (and then my social media feeds): red velvet, birthday cake, hot chocolate, blueberry pie, Dunkin Donuts-mocha and perhaps the most distressing, marshmallow Peep-flavored.

“LIMITED EDITION” most of these packages screamed, and my internal response was “Thank God.”

But there appears to be quite the market for innovative Oreo flavors, and they keep coming, with no clear end in sight.

Oreos, as any sensible person knows, consist of two chocolate wafers and creamy white filling. They should be eaten with only two additional ingredients: milk and peanut butter.

When my mother would bring home the World’s Most Perfect Cookie (only if they were on sale of course), I’d gladly drink my milk with the promise that I could have a cookie to finish the glass. In the 1998 family friendly film The Parent Trap, a youthful Lindsay Lohan smothered them in peanut butter. A more perfect combination could never be found!

And now, with the advent of all these additional and uncalled for flavors, those who are encountering Oreos for the first time are being deprived of those simple pleasures and taught that, when it comes to Oreo flavor options, “more” and “different” equates to “better.”

Is this any way to treat a cookie that’s been part of American households and culture for more than a century? (The National Biscuit Co., now known as Nabisco, introduced the Oreo in 1912.) I just won’t stand for it any longer.

Earlier this month on a lunchtime jaunt to an area grocery store, I bought two packages of what I consider the most offensive Oreo flavors, apple pie and hot and spicy cinnamon, and brought them back to the office for a taste test. While I have grumbled about Oreo’s many overreaches, I had never bothered to try any of them. I gave in, but only in the interest of research.

A quick count of the varieties offered at this grocery store was about 25. I was also momentarily distracted by the Oreo O’s cereal which returned last year after a 10-year hiatus as an attempt at reminding us ’90s children of when we preferred to mix our desserts with our breakfast cereals.

When I returned, my editor, upon my explanation and request to add the cookies to my expense account, jokingly took the unopened packages sitting on my desk and threw them in a trash can, where I had to retrieve them before putting them on the newsroom snack table.

The taste test did nothing to change my mind and I am smugly happy to report that this was one of the few instances when my Valley News co-workers were hesitant to approach the snack table. (Another memorable time was when someone brought in rum balls).

“This looks bad, just looking at it, it looks bad,” one co-worker said. “This is suitable for throwing only.”

“You know a cookie is bad when a journalist won’t even eat it,” another said.

Other co-workers were more open to the new experience.

“At least the cinnamon has chocolate in it,” was one comment.

“The apple pie is not the worst,” was another.

There were creative suggestions for other uses for the cookies. “You can use it for mortar in putting up a wall.”

The most telling — and repeated — conclusion was “this is a waste of an Oreo.”

I was able to get through half of an apple pie Oreo before giving up. I tossed a cinnamon cookie after one unpleasant bite. I felt ill.

But that ill feeling was accompanied by the pleasant knowledge that I was 100 percent right in my complaints and no one in the newsroom could disagree (a first, I believe).

In the interest of fairness, I will begrudgingly acknowledge that there are some Oreo variants I find acceptable. Double Stuf Oreos, introduced in 1974, do not change the original recipe too much. Those stuffed with chocolate and peanut butter make sense. Golden Oreos, featuring a vanilla shell, are a nice alternative for those who do not like chocolate (apparently such people exist). Reduced fat and thin Oreos also make a certain amount sense.

But there is no justification for Oreos that taste like candy corn, Swedish Fish and watermelon. According to multiple sources, Nabisco will be releasing pina colada, cherry cola and kettle corn flavors this year.

Will it ever end?

(As a contrast, my other favorite Nabisco brand, Chips Ahoy!, has wavered only slightly. You can now purchase chocolate chip cookies that have Reese’s Pieces inside them as well as a cookie that has a brownie filling.)

There is now an Oreo of the Month Club through Amazon. For a sweet $239.88 a year, you can receive a box containing two Oreo flavors (filling undetermined), a recipe, a “one of a kind Oreo-inspired gift” and a specially designed Oreo gift box.

I suppose the argument could be made that we are fortunate to live in a free market society where people are free to choose which cookies they consume and which they do not. Clearly Nabisco must be having some success, hawking cinnamon bun-flavored cookies or cookies filled with lemon and lime to a shell-shocked general public. They’ve even managed to convince people that they do not need to know the flavor of the cookie they’re about to consume at all, with its mystery flavor.

A brief acquaintance pointed out that we are living in a golden age of snacks and implied that to argue against that sort of progress is unAmerican. Needless to say, there wasn’t a second date.

I disagree. We need to fight to preserve the institutions that mean the most to us in life. We need to take a stand when the snack industry starts getting out of hand. To do so is the very basis of what it means to be American.

I will continue to do my part by visiting major grocery store chains (and box stores) to take photographs of the Oreo overreach and publicly shaming them for all to see on social media. I understand my crusade is futile, but every like or comment I receive on a post spurs me forward.

So if you believe in the sanctity of the World’s Greatest Cookie, I invite you to join me. Teach a child the way an Oreo should be eaten. Loudly complain whenever you pass a display at a store. And if you see someone about to — God forbid — actually buy a package of apple pie or hot and spicy cinnamon Oreos, stop them (physically if necessary). I promise it is a battle well worth fighting.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.