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Tue, Aug. 20

Column: Oreos: The best darn addiction there ever was

What do Oreo cookies and cocaine have in common? Evidently they are both highly addictive. Ha! I knew that some very serious group of scientists would one day be sitting around in their lab coats, breaking apart the little chocolate rounds and licking the icing, with a big glass of milk when "eureka," a new discovery was made! Cookies taste good! Oh yeah, get me a lab coat because I want that job! Nothing like getting a big fat grant (government perhaps) and a plate of cookies to make an earth-shattering "find" that all of us already know. We love our Oreos.

Can 100 countries be wrong? Could 400 billion cookies sold over the past 100 years give us all the "research" that we really need? People love to twist them, dunk them, lick them and eat them! Okay, so a bunch of lab rats in a Connecticut College experiment were given the choice of eating rice cakes (cardboard) or Oreos (heaven) and we are supposed to be shocked that they all chose the Oreos. It was also determined that eating the cookies activated more neurons in the rat brain's pleasure centers than drugs such as cocaine. Oh, and the rats liked to break open the chocolate biscuits and eat the delicious creamy center first. Smart little devils.

What those scientists failed to tell us is that the "addiction" to Oreos doesn't seem to matter. No marriages ruined, jobs lost, health diminished, laws broken and lives ravaged because folks like to eat cookies! Okay, so those pesky little pleasure centers in human - and rat - brains do seem to release a whole bunch of feel-good neurons while we are eating sugar - or using drugs. But the use of the term "Oreo addict" seems a bit harsh! They are just cookies!

I do recall my grandson, Kevin, eating an entire package of Oreos when he was about 5 years old. He grabbed them out of the pantry, sat in a closet and happily ate twenty cookies and hid the other sixteen from his brothers. When confronted about the cookie hoist, he claimed a "strange man walked into the house and stole the Oreos." Although the evidence of cookie crumbs was on his face, he continued to stick to his story. Which makes me wonder, if a person, steals, hides, indulges and lies... isn't that the hallmark of addictive behavior? Hmmm... can Oreos really be bad?

A man in Prescott emailed me to say that he was lost once while hiking in Colorado, getting off the trail and becoming disoriented. The only way he believes he survived is because he had a bunch of Oreos, and was able to survive for three days. A forest ranger found him when the lost man stuck the empty bright blue cookie package to a tree limb and waited for help. He said he loves his Oreos. Well, why not? They saved his life!

Research seems to suggest that food addiction is a real and widespread problem for millions of Americans. We seem to like - and get hooked on - our sugar, fat and carbohydrates. One man in Phoenix claims he is truly addicted to potato chips and says he cannot go one day without eating three large bags of the "salty, crisp, chips of evil" that are killing him. Why not eat just one? No, this man is mounting a lawsuit against Lays Potato Chips because they have addicted him, causing weight gain, lethargy and low self-esteem. Oh yeah, I would love to get selected to sit on that jury.

But I digress. Getting back to Oreos, these little darlings are celebrating 100 years of cookie bliss. Who knew that two little chocolate disks of biscuit sandwiched around vanilla crème filling would become the biggest selling treat in the world? Addictive? Maybe! Bad for us? Never! Oreos are part of twentieth-century culture and part of our collective memories of childhood. They are not just a cookie, they are the bits of our childhood sandwiched between memories of a simpler, purer time.

Even the historians at Nabisco, which introduced the Oreo in 1912, are not sure how the name came about. Some think it was taken from the French word for gold, which was the main color of the package when they first came out. Others believe it was based on a test version of the cookie that was "hill-shaped" instead of flat disks, and named after the Greek word for mountain, which is oreo. Others think it was a made-up word that sounded snappy.

Yes, that's it! Oreos are snappy, just break them apart and have a blast. Forget what those scientists say about pleasure sensors and brain neurons going bonkers. So they might have an addictive quality to them and it could be hard to eat just one. I am conducting my own cookie research at this very moment and will report back to you. In the meantime, Dear Readers, don't be afraid to twist, lick, munch and dunk. Cookies are good.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at


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