It’s that time again! Every year my wife and I look forward to Girl Scout cookie season, when young-lady empowerment meets the spirit of entrepreneurship and the happy result is another satisfying fix for this perennial craving of ours. Times have gotten harder ever since our usual suppliers went to ground, by which I mean the Girl Scouts we used to know got old and got out of the game. Unfortunately our relatives haven’t been spawning replacement Girl Scouts to hook us up lately, and we’re sadly not hanging out with the right twenty- or thirtysomething crowds whose households harbor these adorable dealers that we can’t live without. That means we have to go prowling around our local groceries and big-box stores in hopes of finding a troop and their moms hanging out by the front door and selling whatever leftovers their own families didn’t buy off them by the crateload.
Today we lucked into a batch early in the season, but had to extricate ourselves from a slowly escalating debate over which ones are best. Rather than keep sowing seeds of dissent between those loyal friends, we walked away and left the two moms and a dad to restore order. That conversation haunted me for the rest of the day. When that happens, I usually have no choice but to type out those thoughts, thereby freeing up that obsessing brain space and clearing my head once again.
The following represents my personal ranking of the eight varieties of Girl Scout cookies available in our area as of 2018. Your Mileage May Vary.
8. Trefoils. I’ve never understood the appeal of shortbread. At all. In any product. This isn’t a knock against just the Girl Scouts. It’s the driest baked good ever invented. If eaten in excess, shortbread can suck all the moisture out of a human body in seconds. It’s the perfect murder weapon. I’m pretty sure the secret ingredient is one of those industrial dessicants they put in tiny packets to keep moisture out of new desktop PCs. I realize some ancient genius invented the “milk and cookies” buddy-snack concept for related reasons, but in my book the best cookies are those that have at least a smidgen of creaminess built into the recipe so they work as standalone snacks. Milk should be a side option that complements the cookie and amplifies its qualities, not its mandatory lifesaver.
7. Thin Mints. Their smooth chocolate exterior makes them look like the Tagalong’s little brother, which is a good thing, but I’ve always associated mint-flavored objects with the elderly. I have no idea where that prejudice comes from, possibly a suppressed childhood trauma involving some forgotten dessert that my grandma loved but made me want to hurl. I’ve developed a mild mint tolerance in recent years, but I have to concentrate and summon up a little willpower to push through larger doses. On a related note, I also don’t have fits of excitement whenever Olive Garden servers throw fistfuls of their patented after-pretend-Italian-dinner mints at us. And don’t even get me started on the utter uselessness of Christmas candy canes, which go straight from my gift pile to File 13 every time.
6. Toffee-Tastic. Like Trefoils, but they’re larger and have toffee, one of my all-time favorite candy fillings. I dearly wish the toffee chips had a stronger presence so these didn’t beg so hard for milk, but they’re also the Girl Scouts’ conciliatory gluten-free option, which I can respect and appreciate.
5. Savannah Smiles. Lemon dough chunks coated with powdered sugar. We middle-aged folks do love our lemon-flavored foodstuffs, especially if we steered clear of them as kids. At some point when we never expected it, our palates decided to change things up and began welcoming lemon into our culinary lineups. The insides of Savannah Smiles are a pleasing texture that carries a nice balance of sweet-‘n’-sour. What I don’t like anymore at my age is instantly messy food. One bite and suddenly I have powdered sugar all over my face, powdered sugar coating my hands, powdered sugar giving me a Santa beard, powdered sugar clouding up my shirt with shaky cocaine chic. Again, this isn’t exclusively a Girl Scout issue — I also get Felix Unger fussy about other Oscar Madison food traps like sugar-covered donuts, caramel apples, and McRibs.
4. Samoas. Crunchy vanilla cookies coated in factory-baked coconut and layered with chocolate stripes. Like lemon, broccoli, and vegetables on pizza, coconut was another flavor that ruined childhood meals but which I’ve come to embrace later in life. Coconut is still on my wife’s Do Not Want list, but I like the texture and the chocolate that works in tandem with the coconut rather than dominating it. My chief complaint is the hole in the middle gives Samoas a feeling of incompleteness, like the Girl Scouts could give us a total Samoa if they wanted, but they’re holding back millions of Samoa holes, all bagged up at Girl Scout headquarters for their own selfish enjoyment.
3. Do-si-dos. Peanut butter cookies are also dry, but never as dry as Saharan shortbread thanks to the saving grace of peanut butter. Do-si-dos make good use of the sandwich-cookie format to nail that classic sweet-‘n’-salty combo, and they’re thicker and crunchier than the average Girl Scout cookie. This well-crafted concoction stands solidly on its own if you’re low on milk and too lazy to go out and buy another gallon of milk before grocery day. They’re not quite as heavenly as Nabisco’s Nutter Butter cookies, but they rate an honorable mention in its presence.
2. S’mores. 2018 brings us a new player, debuting high on the countdown. A sandwich cookie like the Do-si-do, the outer cookie layers are graham-based per the S’more theme, compressing a dual layer inside of creamy chocolate and faux marshmallow. I’ve exhibited self-control and only eaten two from the box so far, but sometimes a small sampling size is all it takes to spot an instant winner. Definitely an up-‘n’-comer that hopefully won’t be buried too soon in the Girl Scout forgotten-cookie graveyard.
1. Tagalongs. At the risk of expressing a popular opinion: well, DUH. The indisputable lifetime world champion of Girl Scout cookies is the best argument why there should be Girl Scouts forever. The wizened professionals at Girl Scout Labs took a seemingly ordinary cookie, spread peanut butter on top, then scientifically augmented that duo with the ultimate chocolate shell casing, forming a formidable supercookie that makes deprived countries rage with envy. But! To evolve the Tagalong into its unstoppable final form, the buyer has to take it one step farther and store them in the freezer. What emerges after a few hours is a box of solidified ambrosia discs, sweet-‘n’-salty-‘n’-chilled-‘n’-crunchy and scrumptious. Every frozen Tagalong I pop in my mouth has me zoning out for a few seconds as my brain functions accelerate and my surroundings dissolve into a Requiem for a Dream speed-montage, but without sucking away all my money or hygiene or human decency.
Well… not yet, anyway. This is why it’s for the best that Girl Scout cookies are a special occasion — not because they’d become tiresome if they were too readily available, but because I could easily see a steady Tagalong supply wrecking our grocery budget.