Every Bay Area Native's Childhood Dies a Little as Mother's Cookies Bids Adieu

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(Photo by codswallop via Flickr)

Pink and white tears as Oakland institution/edible nostalgia goes belly up.

By Joe Eskenazi

Washington Mutual implodes? Times are tough. Lehman Brothers is gone? Time for some belt tightening. But Mother’s Cookies? This, my friends, is a tragedy.

The news that the venerable onetime Oakland institution has gone to the great cookie jar in the sky hurts, and not just because it’s yet another sign of how our national economy is about as stable as a flaky flix. It’s like seeing your high school guidance counselor drunk as a skunk at George and Walt’s. It’s like hearing that your childhood home burned down (or, since this is Oakland, is now a crack den).

True, Mother’s real death – at least for this East Bay native – came in 2006, when the company shut down the 81-year-old factory a wafer’s toss from the Oakland Coliseum (decorated with the company’s garish, purple-and-red logo, which always looked like Carol Channing a bit). If we pull a John McCain and say “country first,” then today’s hasty closure of Mother’s plants in Ohio and Canada (okay, “continent first”) was just as sad a moment. With cookies from Mexico and China costing 79 cents a pack, at least Mother’s was providing some crumbs for (North) American workers.

Personally, however, Mother’s demise feels like the negation of some of the happiest memories of a Bay Area childhood – and is a stark reminder that we aren’t kids anymore. When I think of Mother’s Cookies, I remember hot days at Camp Tzofim in Oakland, with kids drinking Ocean Spray juice out of boxes and singing the Ray Parker, jr. “Ghostbusters” theme song (“Bustin’ makes me feel good!”). Invariably, our hands were smeared with the pink and white frosting from Mother’s circus animal cookies – and the aforementioned flaky flix was the ultimate trade-able lunch item. In fact, the slightly medicinal taste of those circus cookies (and the never-as-tasty-as-it-looked flavor of Flix) forever after brought me back to that moment, when Josh the cool counselor would whip out his guitar and we’d all sing “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”

I still remember that song. But now I can’t get those cookies.


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