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 deliciousness?
P.S. 140 calories. That is all
MW: 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.
JP: 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.