A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the history of coffee, and received numerous, positive replies. It made me wonder where my favourite comfort food, cookies, originated.
The Egyptians and then the Romans first made cookies. They were known as Hardtack, which is basically flour and water. These teeth breakers would keep for years, and were used by explorers and soldiers. Too hard to eat, a simple dunking in your favourite liquid, made them quite tasty. If you have ever travelled to Newfoundland, and have been ‘Screeched In’, you will know what Hardtack cookies taste like.
It seems the origin of our modern day cookies, lies in Persia, present day Iran, as they were the first country to cultivate sugar. This happened back in the 7thcentury, and it took another 800 years for the Brits, primarily Queen Elizabeth I, to commission ginger dough, in the shape of little men.
1891 saw the first Fig Newton cookie on the shelves, but did you know they were called cakes, until the 1980s? Fast forward to 1912 and we were introduced to the first Oreo cookie. The best-selling cookie of all time, over 450 billion Oreos have been produced. That is a distance from here to the moon and back, five times!
In 1937, Ruth Wakefield of Massachusetts was making cookies, when she ran out of nuts. Using a nearby chocolate bar instead, she broke up the tasty treat and added it to her cookies, producing the first chocolate chip cookie in the world. The Nestle Company heard about her delicacy and purchased the recipe in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Sounds like a fair deal to me.
Did you know the average person in North America eats 35,000 cookies in their lifetime and Santa goes through 300 million cookies on Christmas Eve. The most expensive cookies ever purchased were made in 1920, and, complete with decorative tin, sold at auction in 2007 for $32,000.
One fact I found interesting is, only in North America are they called cookies. The rest of the world refers to these yummies as biscuits. The Chinese prefer peanut cookies, whereas India favours Laddus cookies, made with chickpea. Iranians enjoy cardamom and rosewater biscuits, and the Germans live to devour Pfeffernüsse, a form of iced ginger. The United Kingdom specializes in chocolate digestive, the US eats more chocolate chip than anything else, and we Canadians love our Maple Leaf cookies, with maple sugar icing.
I leave you with one question: do you prefer your cookies chewy or crunchy?
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.