He Took a Legendary Cookie Recipe to His Grave. Maybe

Dave Denison writes of the Guerrilla Cookie and its one-of-a-kind creator in the Baffler
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2023 3:29 PM CDT
He Took a Legendary Cookie Recipe to His Grave. Maybe
   (Getty / herreaz)

It starts out as a story about a hunt for a cookie recipe, but Dave Denison's piece in the Baffler ends up being more about the Thoreau-esque baker who appears to have taken the recipe to his grave. The cookie in question is the Guerrilla Cookie, legendary in Midwestern food co-ops in the 1970s and particularly in Madison, Wisconsin. "They were a dense, moist granola cookie," writes Denison. "They had a sheen on top and were dark on the bottom. They were called 'whole meal' cookies; usually one was enough. They came in a plastic bag of six—or was it four?—and the pale yellow label that I remember was hand-lettered with a couple of drawn asterisks or stars and the admonition: 'chew slowly.'" The problem is that the cookie disappeared around 1990, never to be seen again, much to the chagrin of Denison and other devotees.

The baker is question is Ted Odell, who first made them in the 1960s, when they gained a cult following in Madison's hippie counterculture. Odell died in 2021, and "I've come to accept that the recipe is probably now lost forever," writes Denison. The key word there is "probably." It's possible the recipe is hidden somewhere in the primitive cabin where Denison lived on Decatur Lake, which he left to a land conservancy. It turns out that Denison actually worked as a baker's assistant to Odell as a college student, though he remembers only bits and pieces of the recipe. Still, that connection enabled him to rekindle a connection with Odell in his later years, during which Odell explained his aversion to having his recipe turned into a commodity. They were "made in the service of certain principles," he once wrote, and the story digs into them. Read it in full here. (Or check out other longforms.)

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