Asaf Gerchak reviews cookies for The Brunch Club, his friends, and, due to a clerical error, the London Review of Books.
This is my first written cookie review! I say ‘written’, because while I never documented it actively before, I’ve been eating, considering and judging cookies for as long as I can remember. It’s what humans do with food; we consume it, decide if we like it, then quickly change our minds when our cool chef friend reveals that they have a different opinion. This is what anthropologists mean when they say that eating is “a social experience”.
I felt that for my first review I should make sure to go for an example of the most classic of cookies, the most fundamental of cookies, the most undeniably chocolate chip cookieish of cookies: The chocolate chip cookie. It is the cookie archetype - it is Plato’s ideal form cookie. Did the Ancient Greeks have cookies? Maybe if they did, Plato would have been in a better mood and wouldn’t have spent all his time writing allegories saying society is like a dark cave full of idiots. People would have given two shits about bakers and then the Pythagorean Theorem would actually be about pies the way we all wish it was. There’s also a joke somewhere here about why the Colossus of Rhodes was so overweight but I can’t quite reach it.
I decided to get my cookie from Le Gourmand, which often shows up on lists of best cookies in Toronto. I knew I’d be getting my cookie to go, because I’ve been to Le Gourmand before and I’m not nuts about sitting in there. Actually, given the way environment affects an eating experience, that seems like a good place to start:
Holy fucking shit, the environment. Have you guys been reading the news? All those articles in Slate about how this year a monster El Niño is driving the hottest year ever on record? They actually use the word “monster”, like me when my roommate accidentally knocked my avocado toast on the ground last week. It’s a weather phenomenon that literally uses typhoons for fuel. Give it a silly helmet and it’s starting to almost sound like this guy.
What have we done? There’s a Day After Tomorrow-esque apocalyptic force gathering over the South Pacific, and it’s completely a product of our own outrageous hubris and laziness. I can’t even read the news half the time anymore, I get too scared, it’s all too big and too horrible. I just want to enjoy a cookie and feel safe once in a while, you know? I don’t feel like that’s unreasonable to want, is it? YES IT IS. That’s exactly the kind of ‘but I feel like having a nice saturday driving up and down the coast in my Cadillac with my best White girl’ bullshit self-indulgence that gets us into these messes in the first place. I’m eating cookies and polar bears are eating dolphins (fair warning: do not click that link unless you’re alright with seeing a lead photo so graphic that it will permanently shake your belief in the friendly cartoon animals in disney movies). Our planet is dying beneath our feet and above our selfish, greedy heads. We need to stop pretending everything will get better if we shut our eyes and plug our ears and go “la la la la la.”
Also, the tables at Le Gourmand are too close together. The fact that they’re in the middle of the cafe and people walk around you on all sides means you can never settle into that nice sense of sort-of your own space that better set-up cafes have. The coffee is passable, but barely.
When you walk up to the counter at Le Gourmand, they have all the cookies on display, still sitting on the trays they came out of the oven on. URGH right? Gimme that shit. They had a big pile of fresh peanut butter cookies out. Now, I love the goddamn hell out of peanut butter cookies, but I had already decided to go classic choco chip, so I walked past the circles of peanut happiness and accepted a vague sensation of regret that I will likely carry for the rest of my life.
I had spotted the chocolate chip, and to be fair, they looked incredible. They were plump and thick, a pretty good guarantee that you aren’t going to be getting some annoying, dry, hard cookie bullshit. At the same time, the sticky-outy bits were just darker-colored enough to promise a range of delicately crusty textures and emotions, much like when a person’s eyes contain enough darkness that you know their life has been a range of delicately crusty textures and emotions. I got to the front of the line and bought the cookie. I wanted to say something dramatic to make the moment special, but was embarrassed so I just whispered to myself, “round and round the dough ball goes,” which I realize now doesn’t mean anything but felt pretty cool at the time.
It was a good cookie. Everybody loves these cookies, and I don’t feel the need to be contrary and deliberately iconoclastic just to stand out, like those people who try to claim the Beatles actually suck. Shut up, everyone at this party thinks you’re a twat and no one in a million years will ever agree with you that Silver Chair did more for music than George fucking Harrison. Basically what I’m saying is this: While My Guitar Gently Weeps perfectly expresses the gorgeous, driving pain of that vague loneliness which comes from knowing that no matter how many loves we find, we’ve still lost the loves we found before, and the cookies at Le Gourmand are totally tasty.
That said, Le Gourmand’s cookies are not perfect, unlike Something, which wholly and completely captures a love we’ve all felt in the past and are desperately trying to bury in our memories under a string of meaningless experiences, as if one smile from across a coffee shop or one right-swipe match could ever make us forget that we are all now isolated hearts. You see, the painful truth is, the cookies are too oily. I get that butter makes baked goods… good a lot, but these are a bit much. It’s almost like they knew how to make decent cookies, wanted to make great ones, but couldn’t figure out how and decided just to do what already seemed like it was working, but more. It works for the first bite or two, but by halfway through you can feel the thing coating your heart with grease, just like she coated it with ice all those years ago - and just like your relationship with her, this cookie starts to crumble before it seems it should, because instead of structural integrity built on hard work, it’s just a lot of churned fat and badly thought-out decisions.
Tasty, but, unsurprisingly for something so popular, ultimately a bit weaker than one might hope for from a less main-stream production. Still, I’d certainly eat it again if I could find three friends to split it with and was sure none of them had a heart condition.
Score: 3 out of 5 dough balls
CURRENT COOKIE RANKINGS
1) Chocolate Chip - Le Gourmand
I mean, it’s the only one I’ve reviewed, so.
Hit Asaf up on Twitter @ComedianOfNote if you have feelings about this review and want to tell him about them, but only if the feelings are deep and real. No false hearts, please.