Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ethical dilemmas

A few weeks ago, my good friend KJ asked me if I’d be interested in writing a review of 600lb. Gorillas cookies, a product sold by friends of hers who had started their own small company several years back.

This was a new thing for me. Unlike many food bloggers, I neither seek out nor generally receive unsolicited requests for product reviews. So I (perhaps naively) didn’t really think about it in commercial terms, but more in terms of helping out a friend of a friend. I said I would, provided that the producers were prepared for an honest review of their product that might not be favorable. KJ replied that they wouldn’t expect anything else, and I confirmed my agreement.

A few days later, a package arrived at my door containing dry ice and two boxes of frozen premium chocolate chip cookie dough. After I had figured out how to dispose of the dry ice (NB: leave outside in the packaging it arrived in, and before long it will sublimate), I carried out a taste test of the packaged cookies against a few of my own browned butter chocolate chip cookies, which were already sitting in the freezer in ready-to-bake lumps. My testers were DP, Miss B, my friend R. (aka SuperPalate, SP for short), and her husband and three boys.

As SP pointed out to me (after the cookie carnage was finished), this setup was manifestly unfair. No store-bought chocolate chip cookie is going to be able to measure up to a homemade one. (The deck is even more unevenly stacked when browned butter is involved.) Since I’m the kind of person who makes extra cookie dough and freezes it, I was approaching testing these cookies as, “Would I rather eat these premium store-bought cookies than my own homemade ones?” In fact, what I should have been asking was, “Would I rather eat these premium store-bought cookies than no cookies at all (or the mass-produced alternative)?”

And the answer is that question is: absolutely, yes. Although they may not beat out homemade dough head to head, they are miles ahead of other prepared cookie-dough products I have encountered, particularly national brands. It’s clear that, as their package indicates, they are made with real ingredients, and although they may be a little sweeter and less complex than I personally might prefer, definitely taste like butter and sugar and chocolate rather than vegetable shortening and HFCS and who knows what else.

And, full disclosure: yes, I did feel pressured by my conscience not to diss and dismiss their product by virtue of the fact that I received it for free. (To say nothing of the two boxes of ice-cream sandwiches that came a few days later.) The experience has been a lesson to me: if and when I get asked to review another product in future, I’ll do it only if I can pay for it myself.

But fair is fair: I made a bargain, and I’m holding up my end of it. The bottom line is: if you, like me, are an avid home baker, you might prefer a batch of these to a box of 600lb. Gorillas if you've got the time and the ingredients. But in my opinion, they beat most of their chiller-case competition hands down. If I needed to produce some chocolate chip cookies and from-scratch wasn’t an option, these would be my first choice.

600lb. Gorillas are available for online order here and are sold in supermarkets as indicated here.


celia said... Best Blogger Tips

It's a tricky one, isn't it, Nancy? I've never accepted a free item to review as a result - I know I'd feel obliged to say something nice.

Linda Valenti DeVincent said... Best Blogger Tips

I probably wouldn't even get them to the oven. You are a far better woman!

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