Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Notes from a Girl Scout Cookie Curmudgeon

The box says Courage, Confidence, Character, but I see Hydrogenated Oil, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Flavor. I know...I know. Why do I have to go all Lentil on Girl Scout cookies? They're as American as childhood obesity. Is nothing sacred? What did the Girl Scouts ever do to me besides sell me subpar snacks? Don't get me wrong. I'm not judging the girls themselves. They look adorable in their little uniforms as they seductively solicit their wares to strangers—not unlike the big pharma sales reps in those short skirts who roll suitcases of pill samples around to doctors' offices. There's just something really attractive about an enterprising entrepreneur pushing a fresh stash of Lexapros or Do-si-dos®.

You think I like being a cookie curmudgeon? I want to support these young girls on their path to propriety before the tats and nipple rings lead them astray as much as the next guy. I just don't want to be a party to this kind of “food” that our society so eagerly embraces. This week, however, I was obligated to buy a box, and when I offered my friend a cash donation instead, well, that was too complicated. He just wanted to sell me a box of cookies. So I caved. And surprisingly—sweets binger that I am—after my first Samoa, I didn't want any moa. I said no moa. Something seemed off. It had a cardboardesque quality to it as if it had been engineered in a lab. It still had that new beaker taste. I envisioned some mad food scientist in a lab coat and goggles hovering over his boiling glass ensconced in Samoa steam. As I was compartmentalizing each cookie component in my mouth, I wondered where the caramel was that used to be so prominent? Was my box just a result of a bad day at the lab or had the recipe changed? Isn’t that the point of processed food—to achieve a reliable level of sameness?

Since two different beakers bakers make the cookies, I did a little research on the Samoas® and found that each baker has different cookie names with slightly different ingredients and nutritional information for the very same cookie. For instance, ABC Bakers calls them Caramel deLites® and the ingredient list says: Artificial color (red #40 lake, yellow #5 lake, blue #1 lake, blue #2 lake), yet the Samoas from Little Brownie Bakers makes no mention of artificial color at all. So to the unsleuthed ingredient eye, one would assume the colors are as natural as the blue sky of Samoa.

On the Girl Scouts FAQs, I was surprised to find that they address some of my concerns about hydrogenated oil, high-fructose corn syrup, free-trade chocolate, etc., but mostly they make excuses for the ingredients. Apparently, you can claim zero trans fat when there is actually 0.5%, according to FDA labeling rules (Gotta love those processed-food lobbyists). And you know the cookies couldn’t be too healthy when their crack legal team is advising you to eat them in moderation. That’s a little like telling Charlie Sheen to only have one porn star a night. And zero trans fat when there's really some in there? That’s like saying Sheen only had a tween, so she doesn't count. In the meantime, I’m working on some fresh ideas for a Girl Scout cookie makeover. I bet you can hardly wait.

Related Links:

My Healthy Girl Scout Cookie Makeover

Chocolate-Covered Mint Leaves (My Thin Mints)


  1. This is an example of what I love about this blog. Funny, thought provoking writing, but the message is never as simple as "I am right and they are wrong". Life can be just like that and you seem to know it. GREG

  2. Great post. The trans fatty acids issue I find especially misleading - that products containing partially hydrogenated veg oils are allowed to promote 'zero grams trans fats' as long as they contain <1g per (tiny) serving. Ergh...I'm so frustrated I could go on a Samoa binge (my favorite variety back in my cookie-peddling days). :)

  3. I totally agree! I did Girl Scouts (only Brownies), but my mom wouldn't let me sell cookies because she said it was a scam (did you know the girls only get 10 cents a box!?!) Anywho, recently I ate a Samoa for the first time in a while...and agreed. It wasn't good. And those teeny tiny cookies are 70 calories each!!! Not worth it, thank you very much!

  4. Biting wit! All too near the mark. Looking forward to your makeover strategy! The last bastions must fall! Innocent childhood can no longer be associated with, and used to sell, toxic food. I am ready to have discourse on this matter with the young ones (and their moms!) sitting by their stacks of boxes outside the grocery store. You have strengthened my resolve.

  5. O looking forward to what you do! I've always wondered why they were called different cookies... and I love the term "cookie curmudgeon" i need to use that somewhere.... hilarious read as always!

  6. One box won't hurt, will it? Or well, maybe two boxes, one Samoa and one of those peanut butter ones...


    I can't turn those little faces away from the door without buying a few dozen boxes...

    I am a wimp!

  7. I am with you 100%; my kids loved these girl scout cookies and for years I felt like the old curmudgeon. Then I felt unpatriotic (getting such comments was a wake-up call). So I kept my mouth shut and now I am relieved that you, who could never be accused of being unpatriotic,, dare to criticize these "as American as apple pie" darlings of children across the country. Relief.

  8. As someone who has been a girl scout for 9 years (I'm 16 now) and I do agree with many of your points. I wish they would make healthier girl scout cookies, not only would it be better for our waistlines, but I think that more people would buy them, or at least they wouldn't be so quick to use the "I'm on a diet" excuse (there was a lady when we were at a grocery store, she said she couldn't buy any because she was trying to lose weight. She comes out with like 5 boxes of twinkies in her cart lol) Seeing as I am still in Girl Scouts, it is necessary that I sell cookies. I agree with Mollie 100%, it is a scam, our troop barely makes any money off of cookies, you can sell thousands of boxes and only make a few hundred dollars, if that. We fundraise mostly by having car washes, booths at a local fair, bake sales, landscaping, yard sales etc. The GS council makes it very difficult to do these, however, since you "can't have a troop fundraiser when the council is having a fundraiser" which is basically all the time. We have found ways to get around it though, and in only a year we were able to save enough to fly all the way across the country to California! Basically, it is a great organization, sucky corporate sponsors. If you want to support scouts but don't need cookies any donation is welcome! ;)

    1. Anonymous: thanks for your comment. I will consider donating cash next time. Best of luck!