I’m all for cookie innovation. When people started adding salt to chocolate chip cookies a few years ago, I happily partook. When I see recipes online for cookies stuffed with caramel or cake batter or some other unnecessary-but-awesome-looking filling, which seems to be the current gonzo cookie trend, I transform, werewolf-like, into an emoji with cookies for eyes. Same for Nutella and red velvet cookies, confectionary advances of the past decade or so that I firmly believe have benefited society as whole. Believe me when I say my party affiliation is Cookie Monster, straight down the ballot.
That’s why it troubles me so greatly to have to call out a nefarious development in the cookieverse. This abomination of a tweet showed up in my feed recently, unbidden:
Like so many checkout-aisle-magazine cover stars before it (headline: “Then and Wow!”), Chips Ahoy has come out with a slimmed-down version of itself, a crackerish simulacrum of the mass-produced classic. Next thing you know these cookies will be standing inside their now-several-sizes-too-big plastic trays, showing off their new slim figures. Chips Ahoy Thins follow in the footsteps of Oreo Thins, which joint parent company Mondelez International rolled out last year, apparently to great success, and they also join other “thin” cookies on the market like Mrs. Thinster’s line of treats.
Thin cookies are marketed as healthier, slimmer, more “adult” alternatives to the original versions of Chips Ahoy and Oreos and various other beloved snacks, which are still available but no doubt look sad and chubby on shelves next to their thinner siblings. They’re supposed to be crisper and crunchier, and to be fair, some people claim to quite like them. To which I say fine, go ahead and be complicit with the fat cats at the snack conglomerates! Cookie companies have a right to make money, but using their powers of persuasion to convince us that we’re somehow eating a healthier, more chic version of the same old sugary snack strikes me as sneaky bordering on sinister.
Trying to achieve health through cookie-eating is never going to be a solid strategy, and the health evidence seems about as thin as the cookies themselves. The new cookies are slightly lower in calories than their original versions with a serving size that seems slightly bigger, if you’re doing the math: In Oreo’s case, one serving of the Thins consists of four instead of three cookies, which comes to 140 rather than 160 calories. Of course, these numbers seem pretty immaterial when everyone knows it’s nearly impossible not to eat an entire sleeve or box at once. The Associated Press reported last year that “[d]espite having fewer calories per serving, Mondelez says the new cookies aren’t meant to be a diet snack. Still, the ‘Thins’ name could be a stealth way to appeal to people who want to watch their weight, without the stigma of being seen as a diet food.” This is the point that strikes me as most insidious: Putting the word thin on a product implies that it will help you achieve thinness, that you too will be as lithe and skinny as the cookies inside the box. Look at cartoon Mrs. Thinster herself with her toned arms and try to spin it otherwise. Then try to eat the tiny serving size of one of her treats rather than the whole bag.
Meanwhile, the notion that these cookies are “more adult” is more ridiculous than troubling. Ever wondered what makes one cookie more “adult” than another? According to the Associated Press, “[i]n explaining what exactly made them more grown-up, [an Oreo representative] said that if regular Oreos are like pancakes, then Oreo Thins would be like crepes.” Crepes here are a stand-in for Frenchness, that elusive quality American women are forever chasing. That any type of American cookie sold at a grocery store, even a sophisticated thin version of same, could ever hope to be French is wishful thinking. If French women don’t get fat, it’s because they don’t eat too many cookies, not because they eat thin cookies instead of thick cookies. Which is why you can keep your Chips Ahoy and Oreo Thins. I’d rather stuff (classic-size) Oreos whole inside chocolate chip cookie dough and bake them.