10 July, 2011

The Smiley-Face Cookie: Cincinnati, You Make Me Proud!


Yes, I know. I normally am an advocate of all things made with natural ingredients and on the more wholesome side of the nutrition scale. The "Smiley-Face Cookie," which consists of white flour, white sugar, artificial-almond flavoring, and yet more sugar in frosting form with a smiley face (or pumpkin or heart if it is a holiday) stamped on top, is not exactly a good contender as a healthy eating choice. But I also like to support local businesses that are conceptualized and run by actual families and friends, rather than a group of shareholders that impose sweeping, formulated decisions about what kinds of foods a location will have half-way across the country. Busken Bakery in Cincinnati, Ohio (my hometown) is one of those mom-and-pop businesses (established 1928) that has grown over time to include about 13 locations in the city, but is still owned by the original family and makes everything by hand as much as possible. For a good visual, check out this link to a video made about Busken on The Food Network's now-defunct Food Finds show.

"Smiley cookies" of the 2008 presidential candidates. Image courtesy of slate.com.
They also have a neat tradition of changing out the smiley face for a portrait of a politician during a campaign race so that people can "vote" for their choice by buying one candidate's cookie or the other. Even Slate online magazine covered the competition at Busken during the Obama/McCain presidential race. 

Now I know that by preferencing Busken I will get some heated reactions from other Cincinnatians that are devoted to the other local producer of smiley-face cookies: Graeter's. This establishment has been around longer in Cincinnati (since 1870) and has a huge selection of handmade candies and baked goods. But their real specialty is ice cream and in fact, I have known people from Cincinnati who live out here in California that have had Graeter's ice cream flown out to them as Christmas presents from their family back home! Personally, I have always been loyal to the smiley-face cookie from Busken but on my recent trip home I decided to actually do a taste test between the two bakeries to see which one was irrefutably my favorite. The verdict? Even though I refused to be swayed by the fancy color change from the standard yellow frosting to green, or the nifty sunglasses added for summertime, Busken, I am still yours!

Does anyone else have similar smiley-face cookie bakeries where they are from? How about other tasty pastry stories? Post them in the Comments section below or on The Eatable Life's Facebook page. Delicious!

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