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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Girl Scout Cookies

All of your questions, answered

Chavelle Galindo/Flickr

Girl Scout cookies are widely loved but also widely misunderstood. Let’s clear up some misconceptions now, and give you a bit of conversation fodder to drop at your next dinner party or date.

Who invented Girl Scout Cookies?

Girl Scouts, obviously. The very first cookie sale was held in 1917 by a troop in Oklahoma, and it quickly caught on: A few years later the Girl Scouts magazine published a cookie recipe, encouraging troops to bake for fundraisers. In the beginning, the Scouts baked their own sugar cookies and sold them door-to-door; it wasn’t until the late 1930s that they began contracting commercial bakers to produce the cookies en masse.

When is Girl Scout Cookie season?

The exact timing depends on where you live, but generally speaking it occurs for only six to eight weeks each year. The majority of cookie sales are held between January and April, but some troops begin slinging cookies as early as September. The Girl Scout Council of Greater New York will start selling this year’s cookie supply a couple weeks before Christmas, while the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas will launch their sale in mid-January, just to name a couple examples. (Find out when they go on sale in your area here.)

Where can I buy them?

Good question. The Girl Scouts website has a handy cookie locator that will help you track them down by entering your zipcode. In general, Girl Scouts tend to set up shop outside high-traffic areas frequented by people who probably like cookies — think grocery stores and big-box stores such as Target and Walmart.

Even better, in 2014 the Scouts launched online ordering, though it’s not quite as simple as say, using Amazon Prime; they’re still only available during the six-to-eight week cookie season, and in order to purchase cookies you’ve first got to get an email invite from an actual Girl Scout (meaning late-night impulse cookie purchases are basically impossible).

Tom Simpson/Flickr

Who makes Girl Scout Cookies?

Sadly, they are no longer personally baked by the Girl Scouts themselves. Every Girl Scout Cookie sold in America is produced by one of two big bakeries: Little Brownie Bakers (which is actually a subsidiary of Keebler), or ABC Smart Cookies. Troops choose which baker they purchase from, and each baker makes them using slightly different recipes and different names. That’s right, Peanut Butter Patties and Tagalongs are basically the same thing from different companies, as are Caramel DeLites and Samoas, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Do-Si-Dos. (Thin Mints are Thin Mints no matter where you are in the country, though.)

What flavors do they come in?

The current lineup of flavors is as follows:

Thin Mints: a crispy chocolate-mint wafer coated in chocolate

Samoas: crispy coconut and caramel-coated ring-shaped cookies with chocolatey stripes

Tagalongs: crunchy cookies topped with a layer of peanut butter and dipped in chocolate

Trefoils: shortbread cookies

Do-Si-Dos: a peanut butter sandwich cookie

Lemonades: lemon-iced shortbread cookies

Savannah Smiles: another lemon cookie coated in powdered sugar

Thanks-a-Lots: shortbread cookies with a layer of fudge on one side

Trios: a gluten-free chocolate chip-peanut butter-oatmeal cookie

Toffee-tastics: a gluten-free buttery toffee cookie

This year to celebrate the Girl Scouts’ centennial, two different varieties of cookies inspired by the classic campfire treat the s’more are also being introduced: a graham cookie coated in creme icing and coated in chocolate, and a graham sandwich cookie with a chocolate-marshmallow filling.

brianpdx/Flickr

Which Girl Scout Cookie flavor is the best?

While many will argue that the top Girl Scout cookie is the cool, chocolatey Thin Mint, the crispy, creamy, sweet and just-a-little-bit-salty peanut butter and chocolate Tagalongs may actually be the queen of all cookies, Girl Scout or otherwise. The caramel and coconut Samoas also have hordes of devoted fans. Those are easily the top three flavors, and after that there’s a sharp drop-off: Trefoils are boring old shortbread; Savannah Smiles are lemon and really, who gets excited about lemon cookies? The peanut butter sandwiches known as Do-Si-Dos are weirdly dry and crumbly and a little bit bland; and many of the others aren’t even worth mentioning. Stick with the top three and you won’t go wrong. (Pro tip: Thin Mints and Tagalongs are fantastic straight from the freezer.)

Where does all the cookie money go?

Proceeds from cookie sales are distributed amongst the Girl Scouts at three different levels. Only around 20 percent or less of the cost of that box of Samoas actually goes to the troop you purchase them from, and they might use it for community service projects or troop activities. The bulk of it goes to the regional council, which uses the cookie money to support its local troops by funding programming or supporting summer camps. None of the profits from cookie sales go to the national Girl Scouts organization, but they still get their cut: They earn royalties from the bakers who produce the cookies, and also make money off partnerships with big food brands who want to use the Girl Scouts name (more on that below).

How can I get Girl Scout Cookies out of season?

You can’t, unless maybe you find some scalper on Craigslist who keeps stock in their freezer year-round. If you’re really jonesing for a GSC fix, knockoffs can be found in the cookie aisle from both Keebler’s and Walmart’s Great Value brand that approximate Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs — but they’re not as tasty as the real thing, and perhaps more importantly, they lack the charitable aspect that comes along with buying direct from the Girl Scouts.

The Girl Scouts have collaborated with a number of food companies on GSC-inspired products, however, including Breyers ice cream, Coffeemate coffee creamer, and Friendly’s ice cream cakes, and in January, General Mills will launch a limited edition line of Girl Scout Cookie cereals in Thin Mint and Samoa flavors. (There’s also a strain of marijuana called Girl Scout Cookies, but that’s a decidedly unauthorized use of the GSC name.)

Like many wonderful things in life, Girl Scout Cookies are fleeting — and really, waiting 10 months for them to come back in season makes them taste all the better.

All Sweets Week Coverage [E]

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