Life imitates, etc.

When a Times editor asked if I could taste a handful of new Oreo flavors and share my notes, for Maya Salam’s story about the company’s strategic expansion, I jumped at the chance. Growing up in Europe and the Middle East, the Oreo was my introduction to American food culture, and I loved the cookie instantly and fiercely — from the crinkling sound of the plastic packaging; to the frosting, sweeter than anything I’d ever tasted; to the impossibly dark, intricately embossed biscuits, which tasted only vaguely of chocolate.

I still consider the classic Oreo to be a sandwich cookie of perfect proportion and sweetness, but my affection for it wasn’t entirely based on the way it tasted: It was about consuming something American, something cool and rare and glamorous that I might be cut off from at any moment. The cookies could be hard to find internationally in the ‘90s, and the only reliable source was a relative who transported them in his suitcase. It wasn’t until I moved to the United States that I understood Oreos were not, in fact, a luxury product.

My assignment was a simple Oreo taste test, but how could I set aside my deep attachment to the cookie, my true love for it? How could I taste with the composure and impartiality of a reporter?

(“Fireworks Oreos? A Reporter Digests,” New York Times, 7/3/2017)

The paper’s editorials have been subcontracted to Texas Instruments, and the obituaries to Nabisco, so that the staff will have “more time to think.” The foreign desk is turning out language lessons (“Yo temo que Isabel no venga,” “I am afraid that Isabel will not come”). There was an especially lively front page on Tuesday. The No. 1 story was pepperoni — a useful and exhaustive guide. It ran right next to the slimming-your-troublesome-thighs story, with pictures.

(“Pepperoni” in the New Yorker, 12/1/1980)



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