I was a Boy Scout, my dad was Scout Master, my wife was a Brownie leader. I support the Girl Scouts in sprit and with my dollars every spring, when we buy Girl Scout cookies from neighbors, my wife's students, just about everyone who asks.
Thing is, they're not good cookies. Hate to say it; it even hurts a little to say it, but these cookies are just a slight cut above what you might find on a commodity grocery aisle – edible, sure, but not satisfying in terms of taste, texture, anything.
A few years ago, I wrote on this blog that these cookies "are fine, but not great." Now I'm thinking that "fine" is an exaggerated descriptor of these solidly mediocre cookies.
I am not, however, a snob about cookies. They don't have to be made with fancy-pants ingredients, rare chocolate, bacon, whatever. I just like a good cookie and, alas, Girl Scout cookies are not that good.
And this is the time of year for Girl Scout cookies, so I feel I must speak out.
To take the two most pathetic examples of the cookie maker's art, as practiced for the Girl Scouts:
* Caramel DeLites (formerly called Samoas) have thick, cheap chocolate and cocoanut flavor that always makes me feel dirty for eating them. I like caramel a lot, but the ingredients list doesn't include caramel, though it does include corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, sorbitol, and dextrose. One cookie is 70 calories, and about half of that is fat, with loads of sugar (which I'd accept in a better cookie – but in this format, sugar is simply not worth the calories). I used to eat these cookies and thought they were okay; now, they taste bad, and I don't know if it's the cookie or me or both. Probably both: many of us become more discriminating as we age, and as products age, and companies feel pressure to show greater profit, something's got to give, and that something is usually quality.
* Peanut Butter Patties (formerly Tagalongs). One bite, and all I taste is waxy chocolate and peanut butter that feels on the tongue like it was cut with lard. But tastes may be deceiving: the label says there's actually less than 2% chocolate in these cookies, so maybe what I taste is not actually chocolate at all. Whatever it is, it isn't good. There's a perceptible decrease in peanut butter flavor in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, too; I'm guessing a lot of snacks that use peanut butter are cutting this venerable product with shortening or some other less expensive additive.
Thin mints…well, just as with a cheap wine, if you chill these cookies, you can consume them without triggering a gag response.
I don't feel good about saying any of this. Criticizing Girl Scout cookies is not a winning proposition. They're beloved, like so much bad food, probably for nostalgic reasons rather than for the quality of the cookie. Nostalgia is, I've found, the only marginally acceptable defense for eating such egregiously horrid concoctions as these cookies, White Castle hamburgers, and Kraft Mac n' Cheese.
Still, as I mentioned, I support the Girl Scouts; I think they're a fine organization, just poorly represented by these substandard snacks. This year, when I'm approached by a passel of little girls selling the cookies in front of the library, I'll order no cookies, but instead write a check in support of the Girl Scouts. I'll then gently encourage the young ladies to demand a better product from their distributors…a product that I, currently, am not going to eat. If, as the literature suggests, girls learn about business from selling these cookies, then this will help them learn how to accept sincere feedback from sympathetic customers.