It's the 100-year anniversary of a classic childhood ritual: Girl Scout cookie sales. And in its honor, the Scouts' bakeries - Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville and ABC Bakers in Richmond - are introducing a new cookie, S'mores. Depending on which bakery supplies your local troops, you'll get either a graham-cookie sandwich filled with marshmallow and chocolate cream (Little Brownie), or a graham cookie coated in marshmallow and chocolate (ABC). They're different because "There's no wrong way to eat a s'more."
Either way, based on the track record of new Girl Scout cookies, it's hard to say whether the S'mores will become a part of the permanent lineup. The Girl Scout bakeries introduce new cookies every few years. But few have reached the popularity of perpetual bestsellers such as Thin Mints and Samoas (a.k.a. Caramel-deLites, depending on where you live - some cookies have different names depending on their bakery of origin).
Still, Girl Scout cookies have come a long way since 1917, when plucky Scouts raised funds by baking cookies themselves. They went commercial in 1934. Trefoils, a shortbread cookie, were among the first cookies produced, and chocolate mints - now known as Thin Mints - were introduced in 1951. Other cookies have come and gone over the years, such as shortbread Scot-Teas, coconut Pixies and Pecanettes. It remains to be seen whether S'mores will become another Tagalong/Peanut Butter Patty, or just another reduced-fat OléOlé. (Remember those? No?)
Maybe the reason new cookies come and go is that people tend to favor the tried-and-true - and they have strong feelings about the treats. One 1979 Washington Post cookie taste test got heated:
"One taster, for instance, recalled that although she once sold more cookies than any other girl in Prince George's County (Maryland), a nonproductive but prettier Scout was selected to present flowers to Mamie Eisenhower in front of newsreel cameras. She was bitter then and she is bitter now, and she really dumped on the cookies," Hank Burchard wrote. Thin Mints came in first place, followed by Samoas, and in third place, a long-defunct healthful-seeming granola cookie made of "toasted rolled oats in molasses and unbleached flour with sesame seed, wheat germ and dark brown sugar." Trefoils were an offense that "justifies slamming the door on a little girl," one taste-tester wrote. (Man, those 1979 Washington Post food writers were tough. One week later, The Post received a letter to the editor from a Girl Scout who called them bullies.) Those were followed by the now-forgotten Van'Chos, chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies that had "good lickability," our testers said. Do-si-dos came in last.
Food critic grumblings aside, some of the departed cookies were cult favorites - and deeply missed. Home cooks have revived the Kookaburra in their own kitchens. But some of the offerings probably never should have been added to the lineup in the first place, such as Golden Yangles - which wasn't even a cookie, it was a cheese cracker.
"The decision about cookie varieties for each Girl Scout Cookie season is a response to consumer trends and feedback, as well as sales," the Girl Scouts' publicist wrote, noting that the bakeries can offer up to eight cookies. "There are only so many cookie varieties that are produced in a year, and adding a new cookie often means discontinuing another one."
Whither the Golden Nut Cluster? It was introduced in 1992 and was "made of chewy caramel and pecans and covered with maple-flavored coating," one Scout helpfully explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that year. There were Juliettes, named after Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Lowe, which tasted like nutty chocolate turtles and did their time on the cookie roster briefly in the 1980s, and again in the early '90s. In 1997, there was Le Chip, which tried to give a chic Francophile vibe to the all-American chocolate cookie.
"They were quite a hit with our office, too," then-Girl Scout spokeswoman Judi B. Borgo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that year. "But whether Le Chip stays around depends on how well it sells this year."
You can probably guess how that turned out. There's a whole graveyard of abandoned Girl Scout cookie concepts - some lost to the whims of fad diets (RIP, 100-calorie pack CinnaSpins), some too boring to remember (white chocolate macadamia nut Aloha Chips, "the gussied up version of everyone's least favorite cafeteria cookie," according to Mental Floss). But sometimes a new concept sticks: One current long-runner on the menu are Lemonades, which were introduced way back in 2006.
Will S'mores be this year's Le Chip? Our tasters think so. The Little Brownie Bakers cookies "get points for actually looking like a s'more," one taster said, and they'd be pretty good dunked in coffee or tea. But some of us thought they were teeth-achingly sugary, especially the marshmallow creme. They're kind of like what would happen if you added Oreo filling to a Keebler E.L. Fudge. And the ABC Bakers S'mores cookie has a Keebler equivalent, too: It's basically a knockoff of that company's Deluxe Grahams. There's allegedly a marshmallow coating on the graham cracker, below the fudge, but we had to squint to see it - it's less than one millimeter thick. But because the marshmallow fluff wasn't exactly an asset for the other cookie, this works out in ABC Bakers' favor - it's the cookie more of us said we would order, even though it's really only two-thirds of a s'more.
Really, though, when it came down to it, we all said we'd rather just have a box of Thin Mints.
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Maura Judkis