Diablo Views: A motherless child | December 12, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Column - December 12, 2008

Diablo Views: A motherless child

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

At first I thought it might be a temporary problem. After all Flaky Flix had disappeared from the grocery store shelves only to reappear again, shorter and fatter but basically the same.

Then I noticed that not just the Iced Raisins were missing from the cookie aisle in the grocery story; there were no longer any Mother's Cookies. There must be a shortage, I thought, kind of like when anchovies disappeared awhile back. But, no, the checker verified my worst fears: Mother's Cookies is out of business; it closed its doors in October.

I know economic times are bad, but this was unexpected. I would miss, in this order: Iced Raisins (refrigerated), Flaky Flix, and those little pink and white frosted circus animal crackers with sprinkles. I'd never tried any of the others so now I'm feeling guilty that I have forced Mother into ruin. If only I had been more supportive, bought several packages a week instead of one every few weeks.

Growing up in the 1950s in San Jose we never had store-bought cookies in our house. My real mother did the baking, and it was always chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter. She also baked cakes and cupcakes and pies. Anything bought in a bakery was exotic to my sister Diane and me, not to mention pre-packaged cookies from the supermarket. Except for those little boxes of animal crackers you can hang on your wrist by a string - they were a special treat if I had to suffer through the week's shopping.

Girl Scout cookies were another exception to this rule since Diane and I were both Scouts, and my mother was her troop leader. But this was seasonal and we bought only a few boxes. Except for the year that Diane's friend Peggy proudly reported she'd sold 50 cases when in fact she'd sold 50 boxes. We all bought extra cookies that year because Peggy's furious father said she'd have to buy and personally eat each one she didn't sell.

My Aunt Marie and Uncle Bill in San Francisco always had a touch of glamour about them - not only did they live in "the city" but they always had store-bought cookies in their cupboard. Today we would call my aunt a career women - she was in accounts receivable at PG&E - but then she was regarded as someone who'd never been blessed with children so she might as well work. This did not leave her time to bake for her nieces.

Eventually I took over the baking of the chocolate chip cookies at home. After all, a gal needs some prowess in the kitchen. I added peanut butter cookies after getting married, since they were - and still are - my husband's favorite. It was as an Air Force wife after my husband was drafted that I discovered the joys of buying packaged cookies - they were just so darned cheap at the commissary that it didn't make sense not to buy them. And this led, eventually, to my love of Iced Raisins.

Going on the Internet to read about the closure of Mother's Cookies, I saw that some packages were still available by mail order. Alas, no Iced Raisins. I was surprised at the variety of cookies the company had made - I'd never noticed. I also learned that Mother's Cookies was started in Oakland in 1914 by a newspaperman named N.M. Wheatley as a one-man operation, so the story goes, and it expanded in 1949. The Mother's brand was sold to a Belgian company by 1991 but the product was still baked in Oakland. It closed the Oakland bakery in 2006 and had several owners before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October, citing the rising cost of raw materials and fuel. The 60 truck drivers who distributed Mother's Cookies in California were laid off overnight.

Then I spotted a recent AP story with a wondrous headline: "Kellogg buys Mother's Cake & Cookie Co.'s recipes." The story said Kellogg plans to reintroduce Mother's most popular cookies, naming the iced animal crackers, sandwich cookies and wire cut cookies. I can only hope it will also bring back Iced Raisins.

See you in the cookie aisle.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.