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This I Believe: I Believe the Cookie Monster Had it Right

Elizabeth Scherschel midshot
Beatrice Bonner
NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
Elizabeth Scherschel - Springfield High School

Chocolate chip. Pizzelle. Oatmeal raisin. Jan hagel. Shortbread. Camachile. Gingerbread. Stroopwafel. Coconut. Peanut butter. Nearly everyone likes a cookie, regardless of background, identity, or politics; thus, cookies can help bridge the gaps we’ve created in our communities. I believe cookies can bring us together.

I was not excited to move in first grade. Nebraska was very different from Indianapolis, where I’d lived my whole life. We arrived in the neighborhood, and all I wanted to do was go home. Then our neighbors began coming over with plates of cookies. The cookies were an excuse, as it were, for them to introduce themselves and make connections with strangers -- with us. I spent five years in that neighborhood without learning the first names of many of our neighbors, but I knew every member of the families who came to introduce themselves that first week.

Cookies can break the ice, but they can also forge bonds to people we’ve never met and places we’ve never been. Different cultures have their own cookie recipes, and in the age of the internet, we can access those recipes with little more than a click. We as humans are frightened of the unknown; it’s why we race up the stairs once we turn off the light. Cookies can make the unknown known. And what more reassuring introduction to a new culture can there be than cookies?

Many cookie recipes are also passed down from generation to generation. My grandmother’s oatmeal crispy is a recipe her mother made frequently. The recipe uses cheap, bulk ingredients that were easy to come by during the Great Depression. Now, I make oatmeal crispies with my mother, connecting us to relatives and hardships five generations ago. By sharing a piece of someone’s culture or their history, we understand people better. The cookies themselves are a mere conduit, like a bridge from one shore to another. The cookies bring us together. 

The act of baking cookies together can also bring us together. No one collaborates on making cookies in silence; at some point, conversation flows, and if you listen, friendships form. In the same way that school group work forges bonds between classmates, cookie-making connects us outside the classroom. Right now, we’re socially distanced. I haven’t seen my extended family in nearly a year. Instead, we baked cookies. We baked simultaneously over Zoom and sent tins full of various cookies to one another through the mail. It helped keep our traditions alive. While we could not bake and eat them together this year, we still made and shared cookies. They brought us together when we could not physically be together.

As a young child, I watched Cookie Monster praise cookies. At the time, I had the dentists’ warnings about cookies in my head, and I didn’t quite believe Cookie Monster. Now, I know he was right. Cookies, while they do taste good, are more than their physical construct: they have immense power to bring us together.

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