I’d like to make a few hundred Christmas cookies, but most of the people who might eat them are relocated, dead, or not speaking to me. Instead, yesterday I window shopped for cookie ingredients. Yes, it’s pathetic, but I could be strapping reindeer antlers onto my cats and sucking the rum out of fruitcakes. History shows that I’m not above such things.
I admit that in past years my desire to make cookies sometimes exceeded my will to make cookies. I devoted too much time to other holiday activities like writing Christmas cards and playing World of Warcraft. No choice remained other than slinking to Tom Thumb to score some pre-made cookie dough, as if the Pillsbury Doughboy were a street corner dealer of bootleg holiday cheer. Yesterday, out of nostalgia, I glanced at the cookie dough tubes as I sailed past towards the chocolate chips. I jerked my cart to a halt, and I said, out loud, in the middle of the aisle with toddlers around, “Holy sheep shit from hell.”
This is what I saw.
Don’t eat the raw cookie dough. At least they said “please.” I’ve heard rumors that raw dough may not be good for you, but I figured that’s because it clogs your arteries and makes you die, which we all know is a small price for eating cookie dough. I didn’t realize that cookie dough’s perils warranted an actual warning label. Since childhood I’ve eaten a barrel of the stuff, and almost everybody I know has eaten it too. I’ve never heard of a person who, when provided access to raw dough, didn’t instantly stick some in his mouth.
I didn’t know what was going on, but I decided to go home and find out.
As a member of the ever-evolving species homo sapiens, I employed our latest strategy for responding to life-threatening situations. I went to Google. I “googled” the phrase “raw cookie dough kills you dead.” I got five brazillion hits. (That’s a real number—kind of. Look it up.) I only had time to read two brazillion of them. WebMD, the Centers for Disease Control, the New York Times, and many others agreed—raw cookie dough is horrible. Don’t eat it. While you’re at it, stay out of the cake, brownie, and biscuit mix too. If your mom offers it to you, spit it out.
Here’s the deal. Back in 2009 an e. coli outbreak made 77 people sick. Doctors looked into it and figured out that they all ate cookie dough that must have been contaminated somehow. They ruled out eggs (pasteurized). It couldn’t be the sugar, molasses, baking soda, or margarine (all treated for pathogens). If you’re about to suggest it was the chocolate, shut the hell up right now. It must have been the flour, which is horrible, nasty stuff never treated for deadly substances, even though humans have been eating it for thousands of years. The doctors didn’t uncover hard evidence. There was no smoking flour gun. But by process of elimination, flour must have been the deadly ingredient.
These doctors are called epidemiologists, and they study what makes bunches of people sick and/or die. They probably pegged it when they blamed the flour. I believe them.
With the smooth efficiency of a guided missile cruiser, our medical professionals, our government, and the news media terrified people across the nation by exposing the raw cookie dough threat. Bake the dough before you eat it, or you’re courting death. No exceptions. Well, the raw dough in ice cream is okay. It’s “likely” treated in a way that makes it safe. That’s what the doctor said. “Likely treated.” I’m sure they don’t want to make Ben and Jerry do away with a popular flavor.
I’m going to piss off every person reading this by saying, Let’s Do The Math. Hang in there with me.
How many people eat raw dough? About half of college students eat raw dough. Lots of them buy it just to eat—why cook it? That means about 11 million of them eat raw dough.
How many of them get sick from it? Well, the 2009 outbreak was 77 people, not too big, and that’s based on the whole population of the USA. Let’s be generous and say that lots more students get sick—maybe 1,000 per year. That makes their odds of getting sick about 1 in 11,000.
On the other hand, falling down also hurts a lot people. Your chance of falling down and hurting yourself badly enough to go to the hospital is about 1 in 40 each year.
But let’s give these students a break—after all, they’re quicker on their feet that an old guy like me. Maybe their chance of getting hurt falling down is only 1 in 100.
That means that these students are about 100 times more likely to get hurt falling down than to get sick from eating raw dough.
So what I want to know is when I’ll see a big story on CNN about the dangers of standing upright, along with some stern warnings about dragging yourself along on your ass everywhere you go so you don’t fall down and die. If you happen to catch that news report, please tweet me.
I hear the objections. Walking around is necessary, while eating raw dough is optional. Well, if you’ve ever gone over to your girlfriend’s house and found your clothes and your laptop scattered across her front yard, you know that eating raw cookie dough is non-optional.
I won’t advocate that you eat raw dough. I can’t. If I do then some slope-browed yokel will eat four jumbo tubes of the stuff and sue me all the way to Armageddon. But I myself am a little tired of giving in to manufactured terror, and if eating sugary globs of dough counts as a blow against cowardice and stupidity, then I’m happy to strike that blow.
Besides, this sets my precedent for the day when doctors say orgasms are bad for you.