My son Jonah is often my “assistant rabbi” in the synagogue, helping out during services and at other times. A few months ago he pointed out that the delicious homemade brownies at our Friday evening oneg looked like they were made with Oreos. “Aren’t those dairy since Oreos are dairy,” he asked.
Our policy for Friday evening is to provide a parve (neither dairy or meat) oneg since people might have eaten a meat meal for the their Shabbat dinner. If the cookie topped desserts are dairy, people who had just eaten meat would not be able to eat them.
I had to admit that Jonah’s observation seemed to be correct; it looked like the brownies were made with Oreos. So I asked Ana Sofia, who cooks in our kitchen, about them, and she told me that in fact the cookies she used were not Oreos, but a different parve version.
She didn’t say which brand she used, but the experience brought back memories of Hydrox, another type of black cookie with white cream filling. Hydrox are well known to a whole generation of Kashrut-observing kids who longed to eat the unhekhshered (unsupervised) Oreos.
Twenty years ago Oreos became kosher certified and Hydrox, the perceived off-brand cookie, was relegated to obscurity by kosher-eating consumers. A few years later Hydrox were discontinued, and yet Oreos had one major flaw: they were kosher, but dairy so they could not serve as dessert for your meat Shabbat dinner.
The story didn’t end there, however. It turns out Hydrox were actually the original sandwich cookie, started in 1908, and just recently the brand was revived (like Oreos they are also dairy). The cookie wars aren’t over either.
Hydrox has filed a complaint with Federal Trade Commission complaining that the company that produces Oreos is engaging in unfair business practices by pushing packages of Hydrox to undesirable locations on grocery store shelves.
The loyalty of kosher consumers is much sought after – we have lots of services and we like to eat after them. Sometimes an Oreo dipped in milk will do the trick, but sometimes the occasion, and the brownie, calls for something parve.