Penkava: How eating cookies became a rat race

I remember when I ate my first Oreo cookies. I was about eight years old and during a brief yet opportune unsupervised moment in our kitchen, I discovered an unopened package of those black and white beauties in our pantry. Needless to say, one Oreo led to another, and before long Nabisco could chalk up 30 more ingested disks on their way to their current 450 billion.

Of course, during the Great Oreo Pilfer of 1956 I also chugged a glass quart of Borden’s milk, further cementing the magical connection between Elsie the Cow and the delectable synthesis of chocolate biscuit and white cream filling. Later, I learned the proper dunking methodology and since then my milky fingers and I have not looked back. That is, until recently when a bunch of scientists have tried to put a damper on my dunking.

Evidently, according to the science guys at some college, there’s a bunch of rats wandering around in a maze that have somehow proven that Oreo cookies may be as addictive as an illegal powerful drug. Well, having considered their research and finding serious flaws in their experimentation, I will now commence to defend the reputation of milk’s favorite cookie.

As I mentioned earlier, rats were put into a maze. In the first instance, they had the choice of two destinations: Oreos or rice cakes. The rats chose Oreos. Duh. That’s like giving humans a choice between eating cardboard or whipped cream.

The next time the rats were put into the maze, they had another option. They could select either the rice cakes or the powerful addictive drug. Well, the rats chose the drug. That’s no surprise because you can’t blame them for making a quick U-turn when they saw the rice cakes again.

But the scientists, following the formula that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, concluded that since the rats went for both the Oreos and the drug, then they must share common properties. In other words, they claim that Oreos are as addictive as the crystalline tropane alkaloid. That’s like saying that if I always leave my underwear on the floor, and my friend John always leaves the knife in the peanut butter jar, then we are both slobs. That’s ridiculous. Now, if one of us put our underwear in the peanut butter jar, then you might have a point. But that’s a whole other scientific study.

Now, that brings me to consider other questionable variables in the experiment. Take, for example, the rats. We don’t know whether they were good rats or bad rats. Of course a bad rat will go for the drug. And even if there were some good rats, they were probably pressured by the delinquent rats to make a bad choice.

And what about those rice cakes? Some rice cakes have a glycemic index rating close to pure glucose, and that will take any rat’s sugar level on an elevator ride. Did you know that Oreos, in that case, are the healthier choice? Perhaps what those scientists had there were simply a bunch of health-conscious hyperglycemic rats running around in their maze.

Finally, the whole maze concept is problematic. If you want to observe a normal response, you don’t lock someone in a labyrinth. I once went to a corn maze and spent two exasperated hours just trying to escape. Toss in some rice cakes and it’s the Mayan Apocalypse. 

So let’s just draw our own logical conclusions from this experiment. They are as follows:

1) Bad rats like drugs.

2) Rice cakes are full of carbs.

3) Rodentis Oreosis may be a new undiscovered species.

Any deduction beyond these observations is simply scientific gibberish.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He made a deal with his wife: Every time he puts his underwear in the hamper, he gets an Oreo. He’s now going through five pair a day. He can be reached at

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