The case for store-brand cookies

We go through a lot of cookies around here.

The tradition took root with my mom, who recognized that my dad was as likely to halt the day’s work for lunch at 4 p.m. or 10 a.m. as he was at noon.  She took to packing a hefty snack cooler and sending it with Dad — it was mostly meant for the crew of cowboys under his direction — to compensate for Dad’s sporadic schedule/disinterest in rest and nourishment.

Now that Mom and Dad are mostly retired, I march on here at the PV Ranch carrying as many of their flags as I can muster.  That means I’m in charge of the snack cooler these days.  My coolers don’t quite measure up to Mom’s.  Hers were full of goodies:  small bottles of ice-cold Gatorade, cheese sticks, jerky, fresh fruit, and often homemade cookies.

Though I love to bake (maybe I should say loved to bake in a previous life), my kids have wrestled me to the ground and caused me to cry uncle in the kitchen.  You may recall that I am the lady who not so many years ago declared a ban on a microwave in my kitchen.  Unfortunately, sleepless nights and three-year-old metabolisms have taken their toll.  I’m just not as tough as I once was, and these days convenience foods are my friends.  Here at the Blake house these days we microwave dino nuggets for lunch — and coffee too, if it cools down before I get a chance to drink it.

What does all this mean for the snack coolers I pack for the cowboys around here?  Only that homemade cookies are seldom, banana bread is rare, and cinnamon rolls are extinct.  Much more often, it’s store-bought cookies for the crew.

Second only to time, finances have been an obstacle in my snack-packing adventures since my husband, Beau, assumed ranch leadership when Dad slowed down a couple years ago.  Back in the day, Mom and Dad paid for snacks (and most “extras” here at this multi-million-dollar corporate ranch) out of their own pocket.  In the manager’s constant balance to please the guy above and the employees below, it was just my folks’ way of coping.  But Beau declared that he and I could not — would not — proceed in the same way.

So in his first year of budget work with our corporate manager, my dear husband secured a new line item:  a $250 annual budget for snacks at the ranch.

Now, any old homemaker knows that one can blow $250 easily in a single trip to the grocery store.  And I did just that on my first day wielding my husband’s ranch credit card — I blew the entire budget trying to buy what I thought were enough snacks to get us through branding season 2017.  My cart overflowed with cases of Gatorade and packages of all my favorite name-brand cookies:  Oreos, Chips Ahoy!, Nutter Butters, Sandies, etc.

To reiterate, I busted the annual budget right then and there.

Back home, my thoroughly-modern-and-easy-going-but-surprisingly-and-increasingly-frugal husband had a stern conversation with me.  If I was going to be wielding his ranch credit card, I was going to have to smarten up.  There would be no more cases of Gatorade bottles — only powdered Gatorade mixed up in the 5-gallon jug.  And there would be no more name-brand cookies — only store-brand.

“But people hate store-brand cookies!” I protested.

“No,” he firmly replied, “people don’t care.  People just want a cookie to hold in one hand and a coffee cup to hold in the other.”

(My dislike of store-brand cookies dates back to my pre-school years.  In those days there was a drop-in daycare in nearby Hysham, and Mom took me there a time or two; I’m sure she was hoping to get something done without dragging me along.  Yet I dreaded the daycare, mostly because I soon discovered “snack time” amounted to one measly store-brand cookie per kid.  You know, store-brand cookies of the three-long-rows-of-sandwich-cookies-per-package variety.  One measly cookie (!) — in my world, that amounted to an insult.  One ridiculous, sad, knock-off Oreo wannabe.  It was sad.  Humiliating, really.  I felt bad for the kids who were regulars at the daycare — perhaps they didn’t know any better?  My disdain for the place grew until finally Mom promised I never had to go there again.)

Anyhoo, back to the modern era.

When I busted the budget last year on name-brand goodies for the cowboy crew, my (again, usually super-easy-going husband) sat me down for a surprisingly stern visit about buying groceries for the ranch.  And though I could have fought him on it and turned the cookie issue into one that splintered our marriage (I probably could have outlasted him; I am tougher than him in many ways, you know; I’m pretty sure he couldn’t have birthed our four babies), I decided to be cool and let him win this one.

So now when I go to the grocery store, I stock up on store-brand cookies.  I don’t always buy the sad three-rows-of-sandwich-cookies variety, like Beau would prefer (So economical they are!  Like, a penny per cookie!), but I do stick to store-brand in the name of honoring something my husband feels strongly about.

I like to let him think he’s in charge.



And you know what?  I’ve actually developed a taste for some of these flavors.  When the cowboy crew gets in from a long day of work, there’s sometimes a cookie or two left in the cooler, and if that lone cookie is not soaking up the questionable moisture at the bottom of the cooler or trapped in a ziplock bag with a beef stick, I often help myself.  I figure I deserve a mediocre cookie in exchange for packing the cooler.  Over time I’ve come to appreciate the lemon, the shortbread, the oatmeal… okay, none of them are that bad.  When they’re all you’ve got in the house (because name-brand cookies aren’t allowed in your house), they’re just not too bad.

Except for the knock-off Oreos.  I refuse to buy and, accordingly, taste them.  Because some things — like a single-cookie snack — are simply insulting.

© Tam Blake

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