Here is a food memory: I am ten years old. My best friend and I are standing at the take-out window of our local ice cream parlor. We are wearing matching jean skirts and Minnie Mouse T-shirts. We have both ordered cones of cookies 'n' cream. The waitress disappears and reemerges a few minutes later with a cone in each hand. The scoop on the right is encrusted with huge chunks of Oreos, like chocolate meteors. The scoop on the left has clearly come from the bottom of another barrel—it is mostly vanilla, dotted only here and there with crumbs.
My best friend and I begin to wiggle and squirm, bumping into each other as we vie for the better cone. At first I think I've got it. But she is taller than me—her arms are longer—and at the last second her fingers inch past mine and she snatches it from the befuddled waitress.
All the way home I sulk, licking my ice cream while she happily munches hers, pausing once to tweeze out an entire half-cookie with her fingers.
Though it seemed epic at the time, ours was neither the first, nor the biggest, fight over cookies 'n' cream.
The argument over who invented the flavor is much larger and enduring. On one side is John Harrison, the official ice cream taster for Edy's/Dreyer's, who claims to have conceived it in 1980. "Mine was the first," he told the Philadelphia City Paper in 1995. On the other side is the Texas-based Blue Bell Creamery, which insists it formulated the flavor in 1978 by mixing vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreos.
Both Edy's/Dreyer's and Blue Bell are credited with the creation of cookies 'n' cream in numerous articles and publications. However, it is worth noting that, today, neither company makes its version with actual Oreos. The cookies are a product of Nabisco, which is a subsidiary of Kraft Foods. In the United States, only Breyer's, Good Humor, and Klondike have license to use the real deal.
We may never know who first crumbled a chocolate sandwich cookie into a bowl of vanilla ice cream. But in the end, who cares? I'm just glad that it happened at all—and that now there are chocolate, mint, and coffee versions. If only someone would come up with black raspberry.
About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.