There are few reliable joys left in the world of air travel: Bulkhead seats, free ginger ale, a reminder that the Downton Abbey movie happened. And for millions of Americans, there has also long been the simple pleasure of the Lotus brand Biscoff cookie, those oblong, caramely, subtly spiced shortbread discs that are handed out in pairs in the signature clear-and-red cellophane wrapper.
The cookies — though the elegance of the British term “biscuit” somehow seems more fitting here — have been regulars during the increasingly humble beverage and snack service on airlines including American, Delta, and United for flights of 250 miles or more. But as USA Today reported last week, United Airlines has announced it will stop offering the beloved Biscoff, replacing the grandmotherly treat with a pack of snack-chic Oreo Thins instead. In case United’s second-to-last rating among domestic airlines wasn’t reason enough to fly with someone else, this move has sealed the deal for me. I just can’t trust the safety rigors of a company with its snack priorities so obviously out of whack.
Look, Oreos are a perfectly fine everyday cookie and a bingeable masterpiece of a stoned cookie, but they’re a garbage airplane cookie. The Nabisco company put out an entire ad campaign in 2011 promoting Oreos as “Milk’s Favorite Cookie,” because — and everyone knows this — the chocolate and cream sandwiches only really come alive when moistened with a bit of cold, liquid dairy. But, as I discovered once mid-flight while trying to sooth a screaming 16-month-old, milk is almost never offered on airplanes. Biscoffs, however, staying true to their vaguely fancy European aesthetic, are more the kind of thing you pair with the in-flight staples of coffee or tea — their crumbly sweetness ideal for cutting through something hot and bitter. Serving Oreos with no access to milk might be an actual form of mouth torture, but Biscoffs manage to sing alongside even the weakest airplane Lipton.
Then of course there are also those who are just not chocolate people — who prefer the understated warmth of butter and spice to the thunderous thwonk of cocoa (or cocoa-like flavoring). What of their high-altitude sweet tooth? Pretzels? Please, let these misguided souls have this one small thing.
But the real magic of Biscoff cookies isn’t in what they are, but what they aren’t: Sweet but not crave-worthy, satisfying but not indulgent; delicious but not irresistible. Which means depending on the time of your flight and the fullness of your stomach, you might just forego eating the cookies with your drink, slipping them instead into some hidden pocket of your bag where they lie in wait until you stumble upon them, delighted, while scrambling for a pen or for something to ply a few more moments of silence from your kid. Oreos, however (yes, even the vastly inferior thin ones) are a hair too good, too rewarding, too decadent to resist. Hand me a bag of those and before cruising altitude they’ll be gone, and with them any hopes of delayed gratification.
Just yesterday I was given pack of Biscoffs during an American Airlines flight home to LA. When I went to stash it away in my backpack for later, I found I still had the ones I saved from my outbound flight that I never got around to eating. Secure with the knowledge I’d not be without an emergency Biscoff should the need arise, I opened them right there and slid one of the cinnamon-colored ovals out of its sheath, snapped it in half, and ate it. Then I quickly scarfed the other. Crammed in the second-to-last row of an oversold airplane where half the passengers wore face masks out of Coronavirus fears, about to descend into LAX after a holiday weekend during the height of rush hour, that Biscoff break was as close to heaven as I could possibly imagine — even at 40,000 feet.