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I'm a cookie connoisseur

I like 'em all

December 13, 2000

I'm a cookie connoisseur; I like 'em all



Every company has a grunt, someone who does the tough, dirty jobs that no one else would be caught dead doing.

At this company, that person is me.

So when Lifestyle writer Kevin Clapp approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would be a judge in The Herald-Mail's annual cookie bakeoff, I took a long, reflective drag on my El Producto, crushed it out on my forearm, offered a resigned sigh and said, "If I must."

Call me giving and unselfish if need be, but I am a man who will happily throw myself on the bathroom scales for the good of the company.

I took the job seriously. For 36 hours I ate nothing, although I drank several gallons of water to keep my stomach from shrinking. The morning of the contest, I walked to the closet with a steely, determined look in my eye and pulled on my baggiest pair of pantaloons. Then I fished out my longest belt - and threw it in the trash.

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In the corporate dining facility, Kevin had efficiently assembled the 30 plates bearing 30 different kinds of cookies. Two other judges - Rod Sova, a circulation manager here at the paper and culinary arts instructor Michael Toth - were in the room. We gave each other silent, Joe Friday-like nods and set to work.

Each of us had our own table stacked high with plates of cookies and just enough room for a score sheet. The first cookie up was a cream-wafer deal. I ate one and pronounced it delicious. Delicious enough to eat another before moving on.

Co-workers who walked into the room and saw us stuffing cookies into our faces and taking copious notes gave us the utmost admiration and respect, demonstrated by the fact that, to a person, they instantly burst into fits of laughter.

Undeterred, we pressed ahead. Because of my liberal-media, anti-coconut bias, Kevin had thoughtfully steered me away from anything I might not be qualified to judge and consequently, I tended to like everything. Sometimes it took me two or three cookies to ascertain the essence of what the baked good was all about. In the interest of fairness, you know.

About this time I chanced to glance up and couldn't help but notice the other two judges staring with rapt fascination and - was I imagining it? - perhaps a trace of revulsion.

"So," Rod said. "You're eating the whole cookie?"

I was shocked. "I'm eating the whole...? But how else are we supposed to...? I mean if we don't...?" I looked at the other two judges' plates and instantly caught his drift. They had each been taking a cookie and breaking off a small corner, whereas I had been downing one whole cookie per plate, minimum. I started doing the math: Thirty cookies in the first round, narrowed down to 10 cookies in the second round narrowed down to a final three.

Slowly, I began to see Rod's point.

Yet in the interest of fairness I could hardly change my ways two-thirds into the program. It was imperative that I not start to eat partial cookies, or leave any "hanging chips," or simply dimple a cookie. I might not get the full effect of cookie goodness that way.

So I sucked it up and stayed the course, where a lesser man might have wilted. What can I say? I'm a pure company man.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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