Monday, September 7, 2009

Soft Batch Cookies

I don't remember what year it was—sometime in the mid-1980s, I believe; I know my parents still had an apartment in Miami at the time, so that gives some clue—but I do remember that the appearance of Keebler's Soft Batch cookies on grocery shelves revolutionized the concept of bagged baked goods. Until then, all supermarket cookies were crunchy. If you wanted chocolate-chip cookies from a bag, you were pretty much buying Chips Ahoy (maybe Famous Amos, a much better choice) until Keebler introduced the cookies "so soft they taste like they're right from the oven." Soft cookies in a bag? No way. And yet . . . no doubt about it; they were soft. Not long after the product launch, my mother and I decided to try them out one day while grocery shopping. Maybe we broke the cardinal rule of shopping: don't do it when hungry. Maybe we were just looking for an excuse to linger up and down every aisle, because there was air-conditioning, and this was Miami in the summer, and we didn't want to deal with the suffocating heat of the parking lot any sooner than necessary. Anyway, we saw the Keebler Soft Batch cookies in their bright red bag, that stupid elf beckoning . . . We picked up a bag and, although this was not something we ever did, opened it up right there in the aisle to have a taste. In fact, we did more than taste. The way I remember it is that we ate the whole bag before getting to the check-out lines. If it wasn't actually the whole bag, it was close. We definitely over-indulged in a really gross display of everything wrong with American eating habits. The cookies were, we thought, not bad for having come out of a bag. No, they weren't like the ones we took out of our own oven, but they were hard to stop eating anyway. We got up to the cashier and grinned in a cat-that-ate-the-chocolate-chip-canary way, proffering an empty or nearly empty bag for her to scan. We felt a little sick by then—if not physically, then just disgusted with our behavior. I don't think I've eaten a single Soft Batch (or any other store-bought chocolate chip cookie) since. However, the thing that got me thinking about it today? A nearly equal, uncontrollable binge in my kitchen. I stopped counting after about half a dozen cookies: chocolate chip, made yesterday, pilfered from the cookie jar on the sly while my son was busy in his room doing who knows what. A day old, but still soft—naturally, wonderfully soft. So soft they tasted like they were right from my oven. And they were. Take that, Keebler.

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