Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Symbols Even in an Oreo?

Sorry, but I just couldn't help a second post today after the CBS news had their report on Oreo Cookies tonight. A hundred years old and still yummy. And, apparently full of symbolism. Who'd of thunk it?

Oreo cookies were born in New York City in 1912 when a few bakeries combined to form the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) and opened a factory in the Chelsea Market building on 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th St -now called "Oreo Way."

The first prototype of the cookie looked like a baseball mound or hill and the assumption is that Oreo’s got their name from the Greek word “oros” which means “mountain or hill” though it could also be from the Greek word “oraio” which means good and beautiful. Makes you think if there was a Greek ad man at Nabisco then.

After a variety of test runs, Oreo became the “Oreo Biscuit--two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling at 30 cents per pound,” then Oreo Sandwich and finally Oreo Crème Sandwich.

The design on the chocolate wafers was originally stamped out on brass rollers depicting a series of four-leaf clovers around the word Oreo which was surround by a circle with an antenna. In the early 1950’s the four-leaf clovers were changed to a more graceful garland of petals, though some four–leaf clovers are still apparent. The ridges around the cookie weren’t only for the design value but also to help grasp the cookie when dunking.

No one can argue that symbols can powerfully drive our activities and influence our subconscious. Symbols act as a sort of short-hand that triggers (through association) our subconscious and eventually our thought process, feelings and actions. The crosses, the swastika, the yin-yang symbol all drive human activity with their visual impact.

Oreo’s were embossed with:

Four-leaf clovers

An Antenna or Lorraine Cross

And a circle

What do four-leaf clovers symbolize? We can ask Saint Patrick or any Irish man or woman about Shamrocks, but actually the four-leaf clover goes way back to the Celtic Priests or the Druids who used four-leaf clovers as protection against evil spirits. The reality is that the clover plant doesn’t naturally produce four leaves. So, four-leaf clovers for hundreds of years have symbolized to our mass consciousness a rarity that protects and bestows good luck.

Antennas symbolize communication, broadcasting and reception. Funny coincidence is that “National Biscuit Company” abbreviates to NBC.

Crosses symbolized in pagan times, the four-elements and the power of manifestation in the earthly realm. This particular double cross was called the Lorraine cross and was considered the symbol of Joan of Arc’s crusade.

The circle is a symbol of wholeness and infinity.

The symbolic equation probably linked to Oreo’s success?

“Beauty and Goodness” or “mounds” of plenty surrounded by ”infinity and unity” transmitting an earthly manifestation or crusade or receiving “Oreo” (Beauty) from the Great Beyond which bestows garlands of good luck and protection from evil.

That is one powerful symbol on a small round cookie, over 12 billion of which, have been consumed by the world’s population in almost 100 years. And not to forget; a cookie born in our Chelsea Market here New York City.

I will never eat another Oreo without thinking of this. Will you?


rosebud101 said...


Sharon Driscoll said...

Go Oreo - you're my hero!

Roberta said...

I saw that show as well. What struck me the most was that there was a man who actually designed the cookie. As I am/was a graphic designer this amazed me. I never thought much about being a graphic designer for a cookie! But there it was. Sketches and all.