Legendary hoaxes: Neiman Marcus cookie recipe


Neiman Marcus cookies, Evans Caglage/Dallas Morning News photo, food styling by Jane JarrellPhoto: Evans Caglage for the Dallas Morning News; food styling by Jane Jarrell

Caption: “When the legend wouldn’t die, Kevin Garvin created a cookie worthy of the Neiman Marcus name.”

Snopes.com and other sites debunk the old urban legend about the woman who was charged “two-fifty” for a chocolate chip cookie recipe at Neiman Marcus’ stores — but in defense of mainstream media, let it be noted that the Dallas Morning News does it up right, repeating the recipe, fact-checking the story, and actually baking the cookies and providing that mouth-watering photo above (et tu, Pavlov?)

The story began circulating in the late ’80s and spread quickly.

Although Neiman’s denied the story – in fact, the company said it had never served cookies in its restaurants – it kept gaining momentum. Finally, with the help of the Internet and e-mail, it became The Urban Legend That Would Not Die.

Inquiries about the costly recipe kept coming in until, finally, the store tasked its bakers to come up with a recipe worthy of the NM reputation. It was perfected in 1995 by Kevin Garvin and is on the company Web site, www.neimanmarcus.com. Free. It also is in the Neiman Marcus Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $45) by Mr. Garvin and John Harrisson.

The store served cookies made from the recipe as part of its 100th anniversary celebration this month.

When victimized by a hoax, make a cookbook and make some money off of it. Of course, it’s a lot nicer being “Neiman Marcus cookied” than being “swift-boated.”

Here’s the Neiman Marcus version of the Neiman Marcus cookie made famous in the hoax:

  •  ½       cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1     cup light brown sugar
  • 3     tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1     large egg
  • 2     teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾     cups all-purpose flour
  • ½     teaspoon baking powder
  • ½     teaspoon baking soda
  • ½     teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½     teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1 ½     cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 F. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy using an electric mixer on medium speed (approximately 30 seconds).

Beat in the egg and vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda and beat into the butter at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and the chocolate chips.

Using a 1-ounce scoop or 2-tablespoon measure, drop cookies onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2-inch circle.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispy cookie.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

PER SERVING: Calories 154 (43% fat) Fat 8 g (5 g sat) Cholesterol 20 mg Sodium 119 mg Fiber 1 g Carbohydrates 21 g Protein 2 g

First came the legend, then the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe

Learn how it became an e-mail sensation

11:13 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

By WALTRINA STOVALL / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
Stop me if you’ve heard this: A woman and her small daughter are shopping at Neiman Marcus when they decide to lunch in the Zodiac Room. The meal includes complimentary demitasse cups of steaming chicken consommé and tall, airy popovers.

The food is delectable, and as they eat, reed-thin models walk among the tables, showing off the latest in avant-garde fashion.

The pièce de résistance? Chocolate chip cookies that accompany the orange soufflé dessert. The daughter is enthralled.

‘Mommy, it’s so good’

“Oh, Mommy,” sighs the flaxen-haired child. “I’ve never had anything soooo good. These cookies are simply fabulosa. Do you think you could make them at home for me?”

“Hmm,” says the indulgent mother. She beckons the waitperson. “Is it possible to get the recipe for these cookies?” she asks.

The waitperson goes to check and returns to say, yes, the recipe is available. There will be a two-fifty charge.

“No problem!” exclaims the delighted mother. After collecting the recipe, she and her daughter depart to sift through the Last Call clothing racks.

They find some nifty bargains.

At home that evening, the woman goes through her receipts and is startled to discover –

“STOP!” you say? You mean you know the punch line?

Of course, you do. If you’ve been in touch with the outside world during the past 20 years – have received any mail more personal than a utility bill or a flier addressed to “Current Resident” – you know that what the woman found was that the charge for the cookie recipe was not $2.50, as she expected. It was a whopping $250.

Incensed, she had 1,000 copies of the recipe made. She began mailing it to friends, relatives and casual acquaintances. She handed it out at a day spa and to people she bumped into at crowded cocktail parties. The daughter took it for show and tell at her exclusive girls’ school.

Recipients were asked to pass the recipe on because the greedy store must be stopped from charging an unconscionable amount for a cookie recipe.

NM story origins

The story began circulating in the late ’80s and spread quickly.

Although Neiman’s denied the story – in fact, the company said it had never served cookies in its restaurants – it kept gaining momentum. Finally, with the help of the Internet and e-mail, it became The Urban Legend That Would Not Die.

Inquiries about the costly recipe kept coming in until, finally, the store tasked its bakers to come up with a recipe worthy of the NM reputation. It was perfected in 1995 by Kevin Garvin and is on the company Web site, www.neimanmarcus.com. Free. It also is in the Neiman Marcus Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $45) by Mr. Garvin and John Harrisson.

The store served cookies made from the recipe as part of its 100th anniversary celebration this month.

Other recipe legends

There is a long history of urban myths about overpriced recipes.

In the 1930s and ’40s, it was the secret formula for the red velvet cake from the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. A later one involved a fudge cake recipe acquired on a railway dining car. And, just before the Neiman’s myth began, Mrs. Fields was cast as an evil cookie profiteer.

In a fresh rebuttal, NM spokesman Mackay Boynton calls the myth “absolutely untrue.”

He also notes that some versions of the story have the woman paying with a Visa card. NM does not accept Visa. Its preferred customers use an NM charge card or American Express Gold.

And then, although Mr. Boynton didn’t say so, everyone knows that a woman who could afford to spend a whole day shopping at Neiman Marcus wouldn’t quibble about a little ol’ $250 charge.

Waltrina Stovall is a Dallas freelance writer.

About these ads

5 Responses to Legendary hoaxes: Neiman Marcus cookie recipe

  1. [...] 2. Cookie Recipe from Neiman Marcus True or False: After a woman and her daughter are ripped off dining at the Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas, they use the Internet to exact revenge. [...]

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    RAM, the point is that Neiman Marcus never sold the recipe at any price. Neiman Marcus is not in the business of ripping off customers. They never were. Until the story started circulating, Neiman had never served cookies in their store cafes.

    Now you can get the recipe for free from Neiman. They still are not in the business of ripping off customers.

    Enjoy the cookies. If you think you ripped off The Man, more power to you. Just don’t expect me to grant you much credence on any other claims.

    Like

  3. RAM says:

    Obviously Neiman Marcus shouldn’t piss off customers that were misinformed of the price of the recipe. I have the real receipe that someone purchased. The waitress only said two fifty. Which to me would mean two dollars and fifty cents. The waitress should have said two hundred and fifty dollars. The lady is getting back at Neiman Marcus for not giving her the money back. She is e-mailing this recipe around the world and I think it is great. My cookies were wonderful. And believe me I have forwarded this recipe to everyone I know. (That’s a lot of people)

    Like

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Terri! We’ll get a plug for your book up here, soon.

    I worked with a guy who used to own a restaurant in Dallas, and one of the hot items he sold was the “Neiman Marcus cake” — same story, different recipe. It’s a very old hoax, going back at least 50 years, according to Snopes.com.

    Snopes.com notes the Mrs. Field’s twist in their article on the hoax, saying that the company even had signs in their stores saying they’d never sold the recipe to anyone for any price:
    http://www.snopes.com/business/consumer/cookie.asp

    The guy who first pegged these stories as “urban legends” was Jan Brunvand, who taught at the University of Utah. He may still be around Salt Lake City to autograph copies of his books.
    http://www.janbrunvand.com/

    Like

  5. Terri says:

    This is the first time that I have heard of the NM cookie recipe hoax. I find it interesting because of a few parallels of another story. While living in Monterey, CA, during the mid-80s I met a disgruntled woman who distributed Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie recipe with other women living in the area. She told us that she contacted Mrs. Fields’ corporate office and asked how much it would cost to receive her chocolate chip cookie recipe. The repy was “two fifty”. Assuming that meant $2.50, she ordered it and gave them her credit card number. She was shocked when she received her credit card statement with a charge of $250.00. Again she contacted Mrs. Fields’ office to rectify the problem. The employee told her that $250.00 was the correct amount and they would not change it. She began distributing it free of charge to acquaintances who wanted it. It is our family’s most preferred cookie recipe.

    Like

Play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,156 other followers

%d bloggers like this: