Cookie mom's saga: Know your territory

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By Sherri Gardner Howell
Blount Today

One of the best perks of being in the newspaper business is that you get a box of Girl Scout cookies in February.
Two boxes arrived at Blount Today last week. They lasted about two hours.

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Time in Blount County! The Girl Scouts of Tanasi Council, which includes Blount County, began taking orders on Jan. 19. On March 2, the cookies arrive and booth sales and deliveries begin.

It’s all over on March 21.

The Blount County troops kicked off the sale last Saturday with a Cookie Lock-In at First United Methodist Church. The scouts gathered -- in their pajamas -- for a night of dancing, games, making posters and just generally having a good time. Since they aren’t in the newspaper business, there were no Girl Scout cookies for them to eat, but there was plenty of snacks to keep their energy up!

I was glad the nice cookie lady didn’t bring a box of Thin Mints to Blount Today, as I always have a moral dilemma with Thin

You see, whenever cookies -- or anything edible -- arrive at a newspaper office, the neighborly thing to do is share. I’ve worked in small newspaper and large ones, and I’m telling you, the universal truths about newsrooms are they are totally irreverent, and they love to eat.

I never had any trouble sharing with my newspaper family -- except when the gift included Thin Mints. What I wanted to do was hide and horde them.

This time of year, my heart goes out to all those cookie moms and dads who make this annual tradition a success. My mom was a Girl Scout cookie mom for many years. She kept the charts and encouraged the troop and helped us pull our cookies through the neighborhood in my brother’s red wagon.

We didn’t have pre-sells back then. You stepped out on faith, ordered the number of boxes you thought your troop could sell and got to work when the cookies arrived. My mom wasn’t too keen on the outdoorsy parts of Brownie and Girl Scouts, but she always did her part when the cookie sale came around.

Until that faithful year.

Girl Scout cookie mom

As a West Tennessee Girl Scout troop, we were part of the Reelfoot Council. The headquarters was in Jackson, some 30 miles away from my hometown of Lexington, and they pretty much left us alone most of the time. But when the cookie drive came, we were expected to do our part.

One year, someone at the council talked my mother, Frances, into being a "district" cookie mom. She wasn’t sure she wanted to, but they explained it was "basically" just Lexington and the surrounding area. Since there’s not much surrounding area -- once you take out Jackson -- she agreed to do it.

The troops in town were to send all their orders to Mom. The troops in the "surrounding area" sent their orders directly to the council office. Mom counted the number of cases ordered for the Lexington troops. Then she moved furniture in the living room, making enough room for the Lexington order and what she estimated the "surrounding area" might order.

When time came for the cookies to be delivered, Mother called the council office, volunteering to come pick up the cookies.

We had big car, and she had a friend with a station wagon, so she thought we would just bop over to Jackson and pick up
the cookies.

Council declined. "We’ll deliver them to you," they said.

"How nice," my Mom replied.

When the moving-van size truck rolled to a stop in front of the house, Mother was not amused. When they filled the living room, dining room, hallway, my brother’s bedroom, utility room and still looked around for more space, she started crying.

When they demanded she sign for the delivery, on a paper that said she would be responsible for payment of thousands of dollars worth of cookies, she forgot about crying and blistered their ears.

She refused to sign the paper. They refused to leave until she did. She offered to set them a place at the dinner table, as if she could have found the dinner table.

After a few hurried phone calls from our kitchen phone, they left without her signature.

Mother had the phone stuck to her ear every minute the next week, contacting cookie moms in troops all over the "surrounding area." Normally the soul of compassion, she got tough with the troops. No excuse was accepted.

"You come get these cookies," she would tell them, "or I’m taking them back to Jackson."

In the end, the cookies were all distributed, and everyone turned in their money on time. None of those cookie moms were eager to tangle with Mother at this point. They picked up their cookies, and they brought their money in on time.

Reelfoot Council was impressed. They called to invite Mom to be their guest at a banquet to honor volunteers.

She made me leave the room. She told me later she had declined their offer. I don’t know what she told them, but she went on to tell me, "They won’t be calling me anymore. They said I didn’t have the Girl Scout spirit."

Frances and the district cookie delivery became a cookie mom war story.

On the menu
Years ago, News Sentinel food editor -- now retired -- Louise Durman ran a recipe that uses Thin Mints that has remained my favorite. The original recipe called for coffee ice cream, and I am including it as it ran. However, I don’t like coffee ice cream, so I substitute chocolate chip ice cream, and it is wonderful.

Back when my food processor wasn’t stored behind a bunch of junk in the pantry, I used it to crush the cookies. Now I used my wooden mallet.

Café Au Mint Chocolate Pie

1 1/2 sleeves of Thin Mint cookies, crushed
2 pints coffee ice cream (or chocolate chip, or mint chocolate chip)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons whipping cream or condensed milk

Heavily grease sides and bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with regular (not light) stick margarine. Press crushed or crumbled cookies into pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Soften ice cream in refrigerator for 4 hours (or at room temperature for 1 hour.) Fill baked, cooled pie shell with ice cream and cover with wax paper. Freeze. Melt chocolate chips and whipping cream (or condensed milk) over lowest heat and spread over pie. Refreeze.

On the menu
This year’s cookies offer the favorites plus a new sugar-free cookie. On the list are Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, All Abouts, Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils, Café and the new sugar-free Little Brownies. Cookies are $3.50 per box and all the proceeds -- after the baker and other sales expenses are covered, stays here in East Tennessee, says Sarah Callahan, director of communications for the council.

Sarah adds that the council uses its portion of the money "to support girls in our 16-county area. The money is used to recruit girls, train volunteers, provide a support staff, fund a service center, provide the Girl Scout program to girls in rural and urban areas through our Outreach Program, maintain Camp Tanasi on Norris Lake (which has been enjoyed by thousands of East Tennessee women over the past 50 years) and in many other ways.

"The Cookie Program even allows the council to provide financial assistance for girls," says Sarah. "Tanasi Council helps girls pay for uniform components, program materials, field trips and resident camp at Camp Tanasi."

As for individual troops, they each receive a portion of the proceeds from each box of cookies they sell.

"All proceeds go into the troop treasury to benefit each Girl Scout equally," Sarah points out. "The girl who sold 1,000 boxes, and the girl who sold no boxes have equal say in how the troop’s cookie proceeds should be spent. The girls decide how to spend their money. The decision-making process is just as important in the Cookie Program as the actual sale. Girls budget money for special troop expenses, public service projects and trips."

The first cookie sale was homemade cookies sold in paper bags in 1917.

"Girls used a skill they had (cooking) to raise money to broaden their horizons," says Sarah. "The same principal guides our Cookie Program 90 years later."

Here’s a brief description of each cookie -- in case you’ve just moved to this planet:

  • Thin Mints: A thin wafer covered with a smooth chocolaty coating. Made with natural peppermint.
  • All Abouts: A shortbread cookie with a fudge backing. These sport messages like "Girl Scouting is all about Fun."
  • Do-Si-Dos: Crisp and crunchy oatmeal cookies with creamy peanut butter filling. No artificial color or flavor.
  • Trefoils: Shortbread cookie shaped like the Girl Scout emblem.
  • Samoas: Vanilla cookies, covered with caramel, rolled in toasted coconut and striped with chocolate.
  • Tagalongs: Cookie topped with creamy peanut butter and covered with chocolate.
  • Café: Crisp cookie with caramelized brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon.
  • Little Brownies: New. Sugar free and made with Splenda, it’s a bite-size, chewy and dense chocolate cookie with chocolate chips.

Girls Scouts of Tanasi Council is based in Knoxville and serves almost 10,000 girls in 16 East Tennessee counties. Three thousand volunteers work with Tanasi Council.

My mother would be totally overwhelmed.

If you can’t find a Girl Scout, call this number, and they will find a troop representative in your area: 1-800-474-1912.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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