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The Cookie Monster Within

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cookie aisle, I bring you research from the hallowed halls of Connecticut College that suggests Oreo cookies may be as addictive as cocaine.

Shocking as this news may be, we cannot dismiss it as hyperbolic speculation. It was proven in a scientific study, after all. But how, you might ask, when so-called scientists are busy manufacturing hoaxes such as climate change and evolution and twerking, can we possibly believe such a finding? We can believe because this was serious, somber science, practiced by learned scientists. Just read the press release about the study, which describes how the researchers “used immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos, a marker of neuronal activation, in the nucleus accumbens.”

Raise your hand if you understood a word of that. I thought so! That’s because you and I are not learned scientists, which reveal themselves and their conclusions in language that is surpassed in its incomprehensibility only by the sport of cricket.

My initial reaction to this news is that I should add Connecticut College to my children’s higher-education short list. As a young collegian with a serious cash crunch, I participated in a research study that involved swallowing a number of radioactive pills. I left with a check for ten bucks and a jug of laxative so potent it led to the university’s water treatment plant being renamed in my honor. But if I had gone to Connecticut College? I could have earned my research study dollars scarfing down Oreos, and afterwards, I would not have been required to register as an EPA Superfund site.

cookieMonsterBut regardless of whether my intestines still glow in the dark, you, as a parent, should pay close attention to the results of the Connecticut College study because They expose the hidden agendas of seemingly innocuous foodstuffs. I mean, really, what presents more innocently than the humble, cheerful Oreo? I always thought our older son Ben’s relationship with the Oreo was a simple boy-meets-cookie love story. But a little detective work revealed that there is something nefarious going on here that encloses Ben’s light and fluffy affection in a sinister dark biscuit.

Did you know that the vast majority of Oreos consumed in the United States are manufactured right here in Richmond, Virginia? This fact, together with the volume of Oreos that flow through our doors, leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Ben is a confectionery kingpin. He is using his image as an upstanding seventeen-year-old to consolidate his place as the Scarface of the cookie world, dealing Oreos under street names like Poker Chips, Blacktooth, and Oreo Speedwagon.

But before we condemn the Oreo to the ninth circle of our foodie inferno, I owe it to you, dear reader, to expose one weakness in the Connecticut College study. The only reason researchers linked the addictive power of the Oreo to cocaine is because they only studied the Oreo. Based on my family’s experience, I can offer up several food items that would create dazzling expressions of c-Fos in the nucleus accumbens. (No, I am not a learned scientist, but thank you for asking!)

First of all, Pop Tarts. (Which trade on the street under names like Brown Sugar and King of Pop.) Is it not a sign of addiction when a person subjugates his primary relationships to the service of his cravings? What else can we call it when our children, having been away from home for an extended period, and while they are still wrapped in the loving embrace of their affection-starved parents, reply that the only thing they really missed was Pop Tarts? That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Pop Tart junkie.

And then there is Parmesan cheese. (Street names: Big Wheel, El Parminente, and p-Fos.) Parmesan’s addictive danger is Only heightened by the early age at which it hooks a child. Sam, our younger son, was only two when he hit rock bottom. It started innocently enough, a few slivers, maybe a chunk here and there, and before we knew it, he was mainlining the ultra-highly processed stuff straight from the green can. It came to a dramatic head one evening when he locked himself in the bathroom with a stolen container and despite our threats and entreaties would not emerge until we jimmied the lock and forcibly extracted him. Afterwards, as he lie exhausted in our arms, his little spirit broken, the only explanation he could muster about his descent to the dark side was a moaned, “Because I love it so!”

As you can see, the food world is a dangerous place. Certain disgusting foods like Brussels sprouts (street name: Lil’ Yuck) and kale (Big Yuck) have recently begun trading as “superfoods,” because they have antioxidants, which are supposed to confer health benefits like X-ray vision. However, in case you haven’t noticed, the word “antioxidants” can be rearranged to read “Satan do nix it,” so clearly antioxidants are evil.

What, then, is a parent to do? After all, we have to feed our children something. (At least, that is what my caseworker says.) Fortunately, science has stepped in to save our bacon. I mean it. A recent study at ETH Zurich, a top university in Europe, demonstrated that eating bacon makes you live longer. True, the study was only performed on roundworms, but we all know that teenagers are just roundworms with acne, so even though science has destroyed the myth of the innocuous Oreo, it has restored bacon to its rightful place in the nutritional pantheon. And if that news doesn’t cause your nucleus accumbens to do the c-Fos shuffle, I don’t know what will.

(Chris Moore lives in the West End with his wife and two sons. The antioxidants in the house would like you to know that “Chris Moore” can be rearranged to read “Oreo Smirch.” So there.)

A writer and photographer, Chris Moore lives in the West End with his wife and their two sons. A regular contributor to RFM, he writes features, contributes photo essays, and for six years, chronicled true stories of parenting in the DadZone.
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