Food & Drink

The Great Berger Cookie Debate

Baltimore sure loves them. But are Berger Cookies really all that? An unscientific debate.

When I first moved to Baltimore more than 20 years ago, everyone told
me I had to try the Berger Cookie. “Life changing,” they said. “Best.
Cookie. Ever.” So I bought a box. My first thought was the cookie looked
unremarkable, but perhaps that was part of its charm? My second
thought, after tasting it, was: THIS is the cookie everyone’s so gonzo
about? I admit that, all these years later, like some sort of
cookie-based Stockholm Syndrome, I’ve come to sort like the misshapen
fudgy disc, but I still maintain it’s a mediocre cookie, at best. Baltimore‘s former marketing director Jessie Peterson stepped up to the plate to challenge my opinion.

Max Weiss:
The Berger Cookie, as far as I can tell, has two elements. The cookie
and the blob of chocolate on top. Neither of these things is especially
remarkable. The cookie is a generic shortbread and the fudgy top is not
exactly Ghirardelli— it’s essentially a super sweet cross between
chocolate icing and chocolate fudge, the kind of thing that leaves teeth
marks when you bite into it (shudder). Basically, Berger Cookie, you
had two jobs: Give us a great cookie and give us great chocolate on top.
You get a C for both of them. What say you, Jessie?

Jessie Peterson: I say bananas. My grocery cart always comes to a screeching halt when I
spot the golden Bergers. I say golden only because I swear a beam of
light engulfs the rack that so luckily embraces each package of such
magnificence. Examination of each package ensues. My mission: To find
the blobbiest of them all. And by blobby, I am referring to the artful
wisps and layered swirls of magma-esque fudgy chocolate cascading off
the sides of the perfectly round cookie. Beautiful imperfection, I tell
you. And I beg to differ on the graded C. I give taste an A with extra
credit thanks to the little bits of chocolate that have fallen to the
bottom of the package. Who can resist the gooey brownie-like chocolate
blanketing the cookie in a fine balance of super-sweet and semi-sweet

P.S. 140 calories. That is all

First of all, your little tableaux at the grocery store confirms what
I’ve always secretly suspected: That the Berger Cookie has put some sort
of communal spell on the residents of Baltimore. (Beam of light?
Really?) As for your assessment of the “super-sweet and semi-sweet
deliciousness,” well . . . I guess we can agree on the super sweet
part. And you had to go there with the calories, huh? As though Berger
Cookies are somehow . . . good for you? Not so fast, my little
sweet-toothed fairy. You have forced me to reluctantly bring up the
words that send a shudder down any Berger Cookie lover’s spine: Trans
fat. Yup, those partially hydrogenated oils that are found in the Berger
Cookie and which, according to WebMD, “turn your arteries to sludge”
(who knew WebMD could be so poetic?). With the FDA proposed trans fat
ban likely to go into effect, the Berger Cookie may be forced to change its recipe. (Come to think of it, that may not be such a bad thing.)

JP: Call
it a communal spell. Fine. A spell to awaken thy senses to take in such
a fine delicacy. Spell or not, I eat my Berger Cookies with pride . . .
trans fats and all. Yeah, yeah, so that trans fat stuff is bad. I get
it. Berger Cookies have been made with the same basic recipe since the
1800s. Call me and my ancestors survivors. For the record, some
pizzas contain hydrogenated oil. PIZZA. And French fries. And baked
pies. And pudding. And pancakes. Not all variations mind you, but for
the love of snack food! To quote Mark Twain: “Too much of anything is
bad, but too much whiskey Berger Cookie is just enough.”

MW: It
bears mentioning that, right here in Baltimore, we have Otterbein’s
chocolate chip cookies, which I vastly prefer, for both their high
quality chocolate morsels and the slight hint of saltiness in their
cookie batter. To me, that’s a more sophisticated cookie flavor. Berger
Cookies are more like an overactive 6-year-old’s idea of heaven, a blast
of uncomplex sweetness that goes straight to your pleasure sensors.

Otterbein’s? Well, I guess if you like the . 027-inch sliver of cookie
that bears a resemblance to pan scrapings. Or maybe you just like the
excitement of the almost-maybe drawing of one whole cookie in its
entirety. (Side note: I’m positive the Otterbein bags are first beaten
with a club and then dragged behind the delivery truck on Thames
Street.) At least the Berger is two inches of solid COOKIE and not the
remnants of one. You’re absolutely right about the pleasure sensors.
Finally we agree on something! Well, it’s official. Pavlov’s reflex is
in full effect. I’m off to Harris Teeter to pick me up a box of
Bergerliciousness. And Max, I will be sure to share.