Hydrox today seems a rather unappetizing name for a yummy cookie. It sounds more like a fuel for your Scout-class starship in Traveller. Hydrox was introduced in 1908 by a company called Sunshine Biscuits. Sunshine wanted a cookie that synched with the name as well as capture a sense of purity. What was more pure than sun and water? Water was, of course, made up of hydrogen and oxygen, so Hydrox seemed a pretty sweet name.

In 1912, Nabisco released the look-alike Oreo. Nabisco, even then, was a large company. It dwarfed Sunshine Biscuits in terms of distribution channels and advertising budgets. It wasn't long before people came to think of Oreo as the original vanilla-goop-surrounded-by-two-chocolate-wafers cookies and Hydrox as some cheap knock-off brand that the downstairs help and French Canadians ate.

Similar in appearance, there was a chief, early difference between Hydrox and Oreo cookies. Hydrox was made from vegetable oil while Oreo cookies, for a long time, used lard. Although Oreo sales dwarfed Hydrox by about 300 to 1, Hydrox attracted an earnest cult following. Chief among Hydrox's followers were Jews who couldn't eat lard-based Oreos but could eat Hydrox and keep kosher. Later Hydrox attracted vegetarians.

In 1996 Keebler, those bastard elves, bought Sunshine Biscuits and retired the brand. A few years later they changed the recipe and released a wafers-goop-surrounded-by-two-chocolate-wafers cookie called "Droxies". Though the name seemed more whimsical and in keeping with the company notion that obese stunted tree elves bake their products, the Droxies name only managed to confuse most consumers. Where as many thought Hydrox was a cheap knock off of Oreo, many today believe Droxies to be a cheap knock off of Hydrox.

Though the Hydrox was, indeed, discontinued once the parent company was bought out and oreos no longer contained unkosher/nonveg ingredients, they have been put out for sale again recently -- in September of 2008, to be precise.

While I never experienced this myself (probably because I didn't pay attention) it does seem like the cookies had a dedicated Jewish following. Why is this? Are they better because we can eat them? Is it because they're as close as we can get to the commercialized American cookie, the Oreo?*

Are we, as Jews, a mostly invisible minority, attached to these cookies as a way of trying to assimilate more and more? Are they, like so much else in Judaism, a reminder that we're always different, even if it's in a way that's not immediately relevant?

If so, why cling to the cookies now? The big competitor is kosher-certified. And it's not like they're part of my childhood or anything.

Maybe I'll pick up a box.

*as compared to the homemade american cookie, of course -- chocolate chip.

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