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MIKE KEELER: The Amazing Thing . . .

This past week’s solar eclipse up in the great north woods was pretty amazing, And the moment of totality reminded me of another amazing Thing, that has been around for so long, and is so ubiquitous, that we kinda don’t appreciate it.

First of all, we don’t even know how this Thing got its name. Some folks think it’s just the Greek word for “beautifully done,” or maybe it’s a more oblique reference to the French word for gold. A more tortured explanation is that the two middle letters of the Thing’s name come from the two middle letters of the word that describes what’s at the center of the Thing (got that?) and that the first and last letter of the Thing’s name describe the overall shape of the Thing (yeah, that makes sense). Or maybe the name is just a nice melodic-sounding bunch of nonsense.

We do know that the Thing was first created in a North American city named after a European city, and in a neighborhood named after a neighborhood of a different European city. Which perhaps explains the Thing’s old-world design.

It is stamped with an orb surmounted by a double cross, and you all know what that means! The orb certainly implies royalty, right? And any cross has gotta mean Jesus. Some folks claim the symbol is the Cross of Lorraine, which was used during the Crusades by the Knights Templar, and later adopted by the Freemasons.

The son of the guy who designed the stamp claims that the symbol just means “quality,” and is derived from a mark of approval used by medieval monks to denote manuscripts that had been properly copied. The Thing’s design also has a recurring pattern of four triangles pointing to a central dot, forming 12 more crosses (unless they are actually just four-leaf clovers).

You could say that the Thing is the best-selling Thing of its kind, except that no one’s been able to fully agree on just what it is. The Thing was first called a Biscuit. Then a Sandwich. That was later amended to Creme Sandwich. And finally, it was recategorized as a Chocolate Sandwich Cookie (there, that gives it away).

If all of that isn’t enough, we can’t even agree on how to use this Thing. Should we drown it in milk, so it turns to mush, and then we can swallow it whole? Nibble our way through it? Or do we apply the classic twist, and pull off the outer cookie so we can lick the cream filling? Whichever way we do it, there’s one thing we can agree upon: we love this Thing. We’ve eaten more than 350 billion of them since the Thing was first invented.

It is, of course, the classic Oreo, and we brought a pack on our trip with a plan to make an ice-box cake to celebrate a birthday, but that never happened. So we just left them on the counter and they got munched.

Later, as we were packing to go home, there were a few left, and we couldn’t throw them out. So we finished them up with the last of the milk. And looking at them, we couldn’t help but wonder about those two curious holes punched right through the middle.

Tis a mystery.

Mike Keeler

– Mike Keeler


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