"Define cookie, please,” I asked the Dalai Lama on top of the mountain. I might have asked him the more obvious question, “What is the meaning of life?” but cookies have preoccupied my attention as of late, with me being interested especially in the directions that they have been taking and the ingredients being used in their subsequent reformulations.
However, even understanding the basic parameters of the cookie might not necessarily be an easy task in today’s sometimes confusing world. For example, the term “cookie,” which I always thought of as a sweet bakery snack that you dunk in milk, has been, in recent times, absorbed into computer terminology to mean a small amount of data generated by a website and saved by a web browser, its main purpose to identify users and prepare customized web pages for them. Considering his isolation from modern technology, I figured the Dalai Lama would not know this and the word “cookie” would retain its traditional meaning. At least I hoped so after such a long journey.
But, of course, I was wrong. “Browser cookies come in two different flavors: “session” and “persistent,” he began. “The first one…”
“No, wise one,” I interrupted. “I’m talking about the kind you eat. You know, like chocolate chip or peanut butter.” I paused. “Oreo?” I ventured, hoping to establish some form of communication with the old man. (I thought I heard a quick burst of transcendental music at the mention of the word “Oreo,” and I quickly glanced at the skies for the emergence of a divine truth, but the sound had already disappeared.
The Dalai Lama looked disappointed—I think he would rather give his mystical opinions on the subject of computer technology, much to my chagrin. In any case, maybe they didn’t even sell chocolate chip cookies in Shangri-La, although I’m sure there were those who believed, like me, that if any food truly belonged in the land of earthly paradise, it would be chocolate chip cookies. Before he could answer, his cell phone rang, playing a lively tune from the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and he quickly glanced at his incoming message.
He then looked at me for a long time, his brow furrowed as he pondered deeply. “What is a cookie?” he slowly said, closing his eyes as if to go into a meditative trance. “I’m afraid you’ll have to find that answer for yourself, young novice. Cookies are a very personal subject.”
The Cookie Monster could have told me that, I thought, somewhat angrily. “Isn’t there anything you can share with me?” I pleaded. “I’ve come from so far away. And besides, my article on cookie reformulation is on deadline.”