Black and White Cookie

What is a Black and White Cookie?
1. It is a soft, round, flat, oversized, chewy drop cake, iced in perfect halves with vanilla and chocolate.
2. It is generally considered a New York City specialty.
3. It is sold fresh in bakeries and delicatessens.
4. It has been around for maybe 100 years.
5. It has no definitive inventor (person/restaurant).
6. It was elevated to national iconic status when Jerry Seinfeld waxed philosophically “Look to the cookie.”

Origin theories
“No one seems to know who invented the Black and White, or where it was first created. George Greenstein, a second-generation Jewish baker who has devoted his retirement to translating the old New York neighborhood bakery recipes into contemporary home recipes…feels they must have been invented at the beginning of the twentieth century by a baker looking for yet another way to use his standard yellow cake. They were clever. They got copied all over town.”
Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food, Arthur Schwartz [Steward, Tabori & Chang:New York] 2004 (p. 294)

“The black-and-white had been around forever. Herb Glaser, the baker at Glaser Bake Shop on First Avenue near 87th Street, said that as far as he knew, Glaser’s has been making them ever since it opened 96 years ago.”
—“’Look to the Cookie': An Ode in Black and White,” William Grimes, New York Times, May 13, 1998 (p. F1)

“…Glaser’s Bake Shop. Herb Glaser isn’t precisely sure why his baker on 87th and 1st on the Upper East Side is credited as the creator of the black-and-white. He just knows his family has been baking them at the same location since around the time it opened, 1902…Well, he sort of knows. ‘I wasn’t around then,’ he says, but that’s the legend and, so far, no one has debunked it.’…Glaser’s has always made two sized of black-and-whites, small ones and not-so-small ones. In the ‘60s, Herb Glaser used to eat at least two of the smaller cookies a day when he’d walk home from school for lunch.”
—“A Tale of Two Cookies,” Jule Banville, Washington City Paper, June 13, 2008 (p. 40-41)

Symbolism & lore
”The black-and-white cookie, that trumpy and oversize mainstay of New York City Bakeries and delis, has not endured by dint of its taste. Unlike other edible icons, like New York cheesecake or bagels, there is no such thing as a delicious black-and-white cookie. They are either edible or inedible. Fresh-baked and home-baked are the best. The form persists as an object lesson. There is, of course, divergent opinion as to the message embodied in the cookie. One school holds that the cookie endures as an icon of balance. And on its shiny black-and-white-frosted surface, the cookie displays at least the peaceful coexistence of opposites good and bad, yin and yang, life and death, ebony and ivory…’Look to the cookie!’ Jerry Seinfeld regaled the crowd waiting in a New York City bakery… He waived the round harlequin above his head like a placard for radical harmony…Balance is not the black-and-white cookie’s only claim on the populace. Some swear it is a metaphor for clarity. In the gray of urban chaos, there is innocence and simplicity, in a black-and-white cookie.”
—“Smart Cookies: Why black-and-whites have assumed deep cultural significance,” Molly O’Neill, New York Times, January 28, 2001 (p. SM29)

Consuming psychology
” I think of as New York’s answer to the Oreo, because there was a ritual to it,” said Rochelle Udell, the editor in chief of Self magazine, whose family owned Ratchik’s bakery in Brooklyn. “The black-and white always asked the question, which side you start with first? It was graphically appealing, and it allowed you enormous freedom to personalize how you ate it…
—“’Look to the Cookie': An Ode in Black and White,” William Grimes, New York Times, May 13, 1998 (p. F1)

“New Yorkers…can measure a man by the tracks of his teeth imprinted in a black-and-white cookie. And burrowed right down the middle, revealing himself as ambivalent, incapable of choice and afraid of commitment. Center-line attack can also appear judicious. It allows you to savor equal parts of black and white. But the effect of the middle-of-the-road approach is devastating: that which connects becomes instantly devoured, leaving disjointed opposites…In the ‘What’s My Craving?’ section of Chowhound.com… black-and-white devotees trade strategies for damage control…’You start with one flavor and then go to the next…an approved alternative method…Break the B&W in half, then in quarters. Then eat alternative quarters.’”
—“Smart Cookies: Why black-and- whites have assumed deep cultural significance,” Molly O’Neill, New York Times, January 28, 2001 (p. SM29)
[NOTE: Ms. O’Neill states B&W are also called “Half Moons” in Boston and “”Harlequins” in the Midwest.]

Seinfield speaks
[Episode 77,”The Dinner Party,” aired February 4, 1994].
[The Royal Bakery]
ELAINE: Ummm, I love the smell of bakeries.
JERRY: Mmm. Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie.
ELAINE: Mmm.
JERRY: I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it?…
JERRY: … and a black and white cookie, for me. Peace!… (Jerry and Elaine are waiting in line, Jerry takes a bite of his cookie and then speaks) JERRY: Uhm, see the key to eating a Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than, vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only *Look to the Cookie* — all our problems would be solved.
ELAINE: Well your views on race relations are just, fascinating. You really should do an Op-Ed piece for the Times. (Op-Ed stands for Opinions and Editorials)
JERRY: Hmm. Look to the cookie Elaine… Look to the cookie.
(Jerry sees a black man on the other side of the bakery eating the same cookie — Jerry raises his cookie up and so does the man — in a moment of racial harmony & unity to which he just spoke of.)…
JERRY: I don’t know, I don’t feel so good.
ELAINE: What’s wrong?
JERRY: My stomach, I , think it was that cookie.
ELAINE: The black and white?
JERRY: Yeah.
ELAINE: Not getting’ along?
JERRY: I think I got David Duke and Farrakhan down there.
ELAINE: (mocking – in a dopey voice) “Well if we can’t look to the cookie where can we look?”

 

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