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Sunday, September 09, 2007

My role in the international cookie trade

By Dick Hirsch
Throughout the fading summer, the big local story continued to be the delays on the international bridges to Canada. It became the lead item on the radio newscasts, where they were quoting the estimated waiting times in both directions. After leading the newscast with that report, some stations even began repeating it after a few assorted other stories of international or national importance. Thus, it was both the opener and the closer on the regular newscasts. Radio is a primary source of information, especially during the day. The TV stations jumped on board as well, sometimes even displaying that colorful banner screaming BREAKING NEWS as they reported a 90 minute delay on cars returning to the US via the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
When was the last time the bridge crossings received such attention? Never. Even the Buffalo News, struggling to portray itself as still in the hard news business, attempted to analyze the situation while continuing to publish reports of delays which had already transpired.
All this bridge business has had an impact on my behavior and I wouldn’t say that I am alone. I have always had a straightforward policy regarding bridges, but it was never more important than it is right at this moment. My policy was and remains:
I will cross no bridge until I get there.
This season I have reduced my crossings to the bare minimum. I have been willing to forego the legendary vegetarian delight or General Chow’s Strange Flavored Chicken and similar delicacies that made Fort Erie a regular destination for those who have a yen for Chinese food. I have eliminated loganberry and Silverwood’s ice cream from my snack list, and delayed trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford until the fall.
I accomplished all of that without stress, but there has been one bridge related consideration vital to my psychological well being that continues to cause me grave concern.
It has to do with cookies,
My friends will testify that I have never had the slightest trouble ignoring cakes, pies, brownies, fancy pastries, luscious tarts, muffins, eclairs and the most seductive petits fours. However, I stumble badly when it comes to cookies. I have never found a cookie I would reject; even fig Newtons or ginger snaps, disdained by so many, are OK with me. It would make little sense for me to list all the cookie types which are so appealing. I will reveal, however, that chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter are in the top rank, not necessarily in that order. All of those are readily available without any bridge crossing.
But there is one cookie that requires international travel, and as August ends, my supply is dwindling and needs to be replenished. This has become a matter of some urgency. I have never found an acceptable facsimile in the US for this Canadian cookie. Even if some well-meaning storekeeper claimed he could replicate or improve upon this cookie, I would insist upon the real thing. It is crunchy and tasty, two prime requisites, and it is memorable for its elegant simplicity. It is known as Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot Biscuit, and described as “The Original Arrowroot Biscuit.” There is a graphic on the box indicating it has been marketed since 1906.
This cookie is aimed at infants, but adults are missing a great experience. The box is adorned with photos of a very cute baby boy, hair neatly combed, who appears to be under a year old. There are no teeth visible, a clear indication that although a biscuit or two can satisfy a person’s sweet tooth, most of those who enjoy them are not yet old enough to even have any teeth. On the side panel of the box it explains:
“You may give Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot biscuits to your baby as soon as he or she is ready for solid foods. We advise parental supervision when this product is given to infants and young children.”
Am I too old for these cookies? Obviously, I don’t think so. I don’t ever remember eating one until I tried a package while browsing in a cookie department in Canada several years ago. I was immediately entranced. I love them. Furthermore, each biscuit is only 30 calories; thus, if you eat 10 or 20, you’re not hurting yourself too badly.
So if you notice me waiting in line at the bridge, you will know it was a very necessary trip, a buying trip of the utmost importance.



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