When Lucas Kwan Peterson set out to rank the beloved assortment of Girl Scout Cookies, he knew he was dipping into controversy.
"People are very opinionated about these cookies," Peterson, a Los Angeles Times food columnist, told NPR's All Things Considered after publishing his "official Girl Scout cookie power rankings" last month.
"I think we all have that memory of getting a bunch of boxes, someone coming door-to-door, seeing the table in the parking lot at the grocery store. It really kind of triggers a sense memory, for me at least."
Out of the dozen cookies he tested, he said Samoas — known as Caramel deLites in some parts of the country — won by a long shot.
The combination of the chewy caramel, toasted coconut and the chocolate striping, he said, put it above the rest.
"It's not even close," he said. "Unless you really hate coconut, it's just such a superior cookie."
The Caramel Chocolate Chip placed last. The gluten-free recipe had a friend of Peterson's liken the texture to a dog treat.
Some readers took issue with his No. 4 ranking of the iconic Thin Mints.
But his sophisticated ranking system might placate Team Thin Mints. Aside from "better taste," his criteria included whether or not the cookie tasted good frozen.
"Everybody knows eating Girl Scout cookies frozen is the best way to consume a Girl Scout cookie," said the cookie provocateur.
For Peterson, the frozen test is what lifted Thin Mints to the top frozen cookie ranking, despite its fourth place showing overall.
But before his local council of Girl Scouts seeks revenge, the food critic admits that his "official" ranking system is wholly biased.
"These rankings are all my personal favorites," he said. "While I say it's completely scientific and objective, it's obviously just my opinion. This ranking just completely reflects what I personally believe and what I like to stuff into my mouth at 11 p.m. when I'm alone at my computer trying to write something."
In any case, the system is rigged from the start. There are technically 17 different cookies, but five of them each have a slightly tweaked twin that varies by region. It's why, for the purpose of his ranking, Peterson rated 12 cookies.
The differences are indicated by the name. For example, the local Decatur, Ga., Girl Scouts can enjoy a heavier ratio of peanut butter filling in their Tagalongs, while a troop in Sacramento, Calif., will taste more vanilla notes in their Peanut Butter Patties.
This is because all of the offerings are made by two separate bakers. Each Girl Scout council, Peterson said, decides which baker they buy from. That means, depending on where you live, you might be getting the short end of the Shortbread (or Trefoils, if you prefer).
Kira Wakeam and Tinbete Ermyas produced and edited the audio version of this story.
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