A cookie a small usually sweet portable snack. Every country has is own traditional version. The concept can be traced back to Persia in the 7th century AD.
The main ingredient, sugar, was discovered in Southeast Asia. As early as 510BC soldiers of the Emperor Darius discovered sugar cane growing near the river Indus. The potential of the reed was not realised. It was not until the time of Alexander the Great that sugar cane was introduced to countries around the Mediterranean.
As people began to journey around the world it became important to carry food that would not spoil. Ships biscuit or hardtack filled the bill. It was similar to today’s cracker, but very hard. It could last for months under the right conditions.
In the 16th and 17th centuries recipes were created by bakery guilds. A recipe book for the housewife appeared in 1596. It included a recipe for cookies known as Fine Cakes. Made from egg yolks, spices, sugar and flour they were baked on sheets of parchment.
In 1796 Amelia Simmons wrote a book of American cookery that included recipes for cookies. The book had a section called Christmas Cookery that gave instructions for cooking shaped cookies that could be stored for up to six months.
The modern cookie arrived in America with emigrants from England, Scotland and Holland.
The sale of cookies has been used to raise funds for charitable causes. An example of this is the American Girl Scout Cookie. For more than 80 years girl scouts have sold boxes of cookies.
In Australia the Anzac Biscuit, an army biscuit is sold each year on April 25th when the country commemorates Anzac Day. During the First World War the recipe was used to make biscuits for soldiers serving in Europe. The biscuits took two months to arrive by sea and arrived in Gallipoli on April 25th 1915.
Peanut Butter Cookies came into being in 1916 as the result of research carried out by George Washington Carver. He was looking for an alternative crop to the cotton that had been destroyed by the boll weevil. He found many uses for peanuts and discovered their nutritional value.
Fortune Cookies traditionally celebrate Chinese festivals such as harvest and New Year. Messages were first included in the folded cookies back in the 13th and 14th centuries to send secret information that could be passed to patriots without the enemy Mongols finding out.
In 2005 the cookie became a religious/political item. In Denmark a traditional Christmas cookie is known as a Jewish cookie. The country’s Muslims refused to eat them. The manufacturer was worried about a drop in sales. The cookies are not kosher and very few Jews eat them. A change in name was considered.