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Is Toll House Recall a Turning Point?


(Courtesy of Business Wire/Doubletree Hotels)

When I blogged the other day about Nestle's recalling its refrigerated Toll House cookie dough products, reader "Chasmosaur1" commented:

You know what kills me? It is SO not hard to make Tollhouse/chocolate chip cookies. I've never understood why they prepackaged cookie dough. The most expensive thing are the morsels....

I couldn't agree more. It's so easy to make real Toll House cookies at home -- using the recipe on the bag of Nestle's chocolate chips -- that there's really no excuse for buying the pre-packaged dough.

And while I'm sorry that anyone was sickened by the Nestle products (which were contaminated with E. coli bacteria), perhaps this incident may prove a turning point. Might more of us start to bake and cook more of what we eat, instead of allowing big companies to do it for us? Might more of us come to recognize that, by and large, foods we make ourselves are better for us than are processed foods we get in boxes, bags or tubs at the grocery store? And might we begin to free ourselves from the hold processed food has on us?

Lest you think I'm being preachy here, I have purchased Toll House cookie dough in the past. My kids got the idea from friends that the stuff was fun to eat straight from the package -- no baking required! -- and that mixing blobs of it into a bowl of vanilla ice cream made for a terrific dessert. (Some nutrition-writer mom, right?) But like many parents, I've learned that sometimes indulging your kids in a whim is the best way to get it out of their systems. It didn't take long for them to realize that the dough tasted artificial.

The thing is, I was counting on Nestle's dough to be artificial; had I assumed otherwise, I wouldn't have allowed the kids to eat it raw, just as I don't allow them to eat home-made cookie dough raw for fear of salmonella's lurking in the raw eggs. Now I know I should have heeded the tiny-print package warning against consuming the Nestle dough unbaked. Turns out there are actual eggs in there, after all. In any case, my kids have moved beyond that regrettable raw-dough-and-ice-cream phase.

These days, if one of the kids wants cookies, he or she gets out the butter, eggs, flour and other ingredients and makes them from scratch. I can't remember when we've last bought a package of Oreos or other baked goodies. The kids have gained an appreciation for real ingredients and for the magic of baking. They think it's fun, and they're proud to know how. Our family has joined many others in understanding that half the fun of food is in helping to prepare it.

Perhaps some of the families who've counted on Nestle to mix their cookie dough for them will be inspired by the recall to try making their own. Thus empowered, who knows what they might cook up next?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Food Safety and Recalls , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Comments

I consider making baked goods from scratch one way to maintain my weight. I have an informal rule for myself that if I want to eat cake, cookies, pies, crumbles, buckles, etc., I have to bake it myself, no mixes or pre-made crusts. Often my desires aren't strong enough to overcome my natural laziness and I eat fewer sweets than I otherwise might. Not to mention the results are better than anything I can buy even when they aren't as pretty (my guy gets his traditional Mud Slide Cake for his birthday, so named from my first attempt that was not exactly symmetrical).

Posted by: esleigh | June 24, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"These days, if one of the kids wants cookies, he or she gets out the butter, eggs, flour and other ingredients and makes them from scratch. I can't remember when we've last bought a package of Oreos or other baked goodies. The kids have gained an appreciation for real ingredients and for the magic of baking. They think it's fun, and they're proud to know how. Our family has joined many others in understanding that half the fun of food is in helping to prepare it."

We do this and also make our own bread--it's easy and quick with a bread maker and saves our family of seven several dollars in "bread money"...and its healthier....

Posted by: mil1 | June 24, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tip. But some of us have these things called "jobs" and don't have time to churn our own butter.

You DO churn your own butter, don't you?

Otherwise, I'd have to call you a hypocrite for buying that processed butter in a tub at the grocery store instead of depriving your children of the joy of churning. The preparation is, after all, "half the fun" of butter, is it not?

Posted by: ComfortablyDumb | June 24, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please. People act like the nestle recall is the end all be all of recalls. I subscribe to the FDA recall govbulletin list and you'd be surprised at how many recalls come through on a daily basis. And these recalls aren't just the few mentioned on the news.

Posted by: lidiworks1 | June 24, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Comfortable - I have a job, too, and I do like to "churn" my own butter (I've liked to make it since I was a kid and I shake it rather than churn it), not that I do it that often. It tastes great, it's fun, and it *is* rewarding. Thanks for bringing up the subject - I think I'll make some this weekend.

Posted by: esleigh | June 24, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I hate prepared food snobs. They never think things through. There is obviously a reason that such products exist and sell.

1. Maybe I want to spend the time it takes to prepare ingredients, bake the cookies, and wash the dishes doing something else like spending time with my family.

2. Maybe I only want a few cookies and not an entire batch.

Posted by: mediajunky | June 24, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"Thanks for the tip. But some of us have these things called "jobs" and don't have time to churn our own butter.

You DO churn your own butter, don't you?

Otherwise, I'd have to call you a hypocrite for buying that processed butter in a tub at the grocery store instead of depriving your children of the joy of churning. The preparation is, after all, "half the fun" of butter, is it not?

Posted by: ComfortablyDumb | June 24, 2009 1:36 PM"

Humm....well not to put too fine a point on it, but maybe the balance between work and home would be more favorable if you spent the time at work "working" rather than surfing websites and posting comments during the work day.....just a thought.

Posted by: blackbear336 | June 24, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Huget wrote: "Now I know I should have heeded the tiny-print package warning against consuming the Nestle dough unbaked. Turns out there are actual eggs in there, after all."

There is the lesson of this story. A raw egg is a raw egg no matter the product into which it is mixed.

As consumers, we need to use our common sense when purchasing and serving food products. Assumptions, when it comes to food, can make sick or kill not only ourselves, but our children and guests at our respective dinner tables.

I hesitate to bring up the "Darwin award" theory, but it is very tempting.

Cook or cure the food that should be not be eaten raw. Wash your veggies, fruits, etc. before you cut / bite into them. Sanitize food prep surfaces and tools. Simple rules by which to cook and live, I hope.

Posted by: CB12 | June 24, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it makes sense to blame the raw eggs in this case. Salmonella is associated with raw eggs, but this contamination is E. Coli. That's associated with excrement, correct?

Posted by: Fruitfly1 | June 24, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Fruitfly 1:

Yes, you're absolutely right; I should have been clearer in writing that. I didn't mean to blame the eggs for the current Toll House dough contamination.

Thanks!
Jennifer

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | June 24, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

For the home-baked cookie snobs, make sure you don't eat the raw dough. As noted above, raw eggs carry a risk of salmonella.

It's dangerous being smug about anything these days...

Posted by: SilviaC | June 24, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Here is more information on the 70 victims of the Toll House cookie dough E. coli contamination: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/7233

Posted by: muckraker462 | June 25, 2009 3:28 AM | Report abuse

I may be a home-baked cookie snob, but I'm not smug about it, no I'm not. It's practical for me and I enjoy the process as well as the results, but I don't think I'm better than anyone else for doing it. I don't make judgements about people who buy cookies though I might be sad that they're missing out on something great. I never said my way is best, just that it's best for me.

For what it's worth, I'm a complete home-made food snob, not just cookies and desserts. I think anything made from scratch is going to be better than anything I can buy. I love SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) food and I'm happy to share my love of eating and cooking this way with anyone who will listen. I also have an open mind and I'm willing to listen to people tell me about what they love and why they love it in their diets and lives.

So, SilviaC, what do you love about your food?

Posted by: esleigh | June 25, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

For those who do not only like to make their own cookies but eat the raw cookie dough, may I suggest using the egg substitutes available in the grocery store (egg beaters, etc.). These are pasturized egg whites (sometimes with a yellow dye added, but their are more natural, organic versions). They work just as well as a raw whole egg, but without the raw egg dangers.

Posted by: GLH11 | June 25, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

ComfortablyDumb's analogy to churning butter is ridiculous. It takes 10 minutes to mix up a batch of Toll House cookies. Nobody's trying to be smug ... I've certainly bought ready-made dough before. The point is simply that it can be really fun to rediscover the joy of making something yourself, and if it also makes you feel more secure about what you're eating, then so much the butter--I mean BETTER! Hee.

Posted by: gmg22 | June 26, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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