Eat it, vanilla lovers ... chocolate rules the world!

Idistinctly remember my first taste of real chocolate. Not milk chocolate, mind you. That's kid stuff. The real deal came via a spoonful of delicious dark chocolate pot de crème, generously shared by my mother. I was only about 9 years old. But something primal stirred deep within my soul. And it screamed, "YES!"

Like my mom, I became an addict of cocoa bean.

Last week at Medford's Growers Market, my love for this particular drug set in motion the birth of the perfect chocolate cookie. (You can thank me later.)

It happened while chatting with Cathy P. of Pennington Farms. Picking up a passel of her to-die-for molasses cookies, I noticed she had baked batches of her favorite "Blondies" — the vanilla version of brownies.

Taking chocolate out of a recipe? Blasphemy. There ought to be a law.

"You should make a chocolate cookie," I blurted out.

She looked at her baked goods with a slightly raised brow. In addition to the Blondies and molasses cookies, there also were chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, orange drop cookies and sweet and savory pies.

Then she made my day with a smile and a simple question.

"What kind should I make?"

Chocolate crinkle, I instantly replied. The classic would be a great fit with her homey and delicious collection.

But Cathy countered she'd never heard of the ubiquitous cookie. What? She might as well have announced she'd never heard of Oreos.

That's when it hit me. The realization oozed across my consciousness like molten hot fudge. My pal wasn't like me and Mom, or The Englishman, my beau. Cathy was a vanilla person. Duh! It explained so much. Her affinity for the sun. Her sunny disposition. Her sunburst smile. Her golden blond hair. My friend was a sweet pod lover.

Why, during a decade of conversations about life and love and all things fattening, had it never once occurred to me that she didn't actually share my predilection for the dark and dangerous taste of chocolate? How could I have missed that fundamental fact? Later that night, I put the question to The Englishman, the only person on the planet who loves this sinful delight more.

He was skeptical, to say the least.

"Someone who likes vanilla more than chocolate? I didn't think such a person existed," he said, in puzzled tones.

Still curious about what makes a person prefer the bean or the pod, I put the question to my Facebook friends. Chocolate or vanilla? And defend your answer, I challenged.

Prejudice showing once again, I expected to see mostly chocolate comments. But turns out I have an almost equal mix of vanilla buddies, too.

Vanilla, these folks insisted, is sweet, clean and refreshing. It is pure and simple. Vanilla reminds Beth of being a kid, and of her dad making homemade ice cream in the snow. This had been a bad week. A comforting vanilla cone of soft swirl "hit the sad spot and made it all better for a bit," she said.

Vanilla has the added bonus of being the perfect backdrop flavor to everything from butterscotch to strawberries to, you guessed it, chocolate, they added.

Some sat on the fence. Or sought the best of both worlds. "Vanilla in the morning, chocolate in the evening," said Cheryl.

One friend emailed me privately, so I won't share her name. But I will share her thought, as I do share her sentiment.

"When I taste vanilla, I think of a wedding gown," she said. "When I taste chocolate, I think of a nightgown."

Ahem. Let's get back to Cathy and the perfect chocolate cookie. I'd promised that fateful afternoon to get her a recipe for the crinkle cookie. But the foodie blogs I frequent must find this classic too cliche. I did find a recipe for homemade Oreos, and posted that on her Facebook page. Hint, hint.

Not to worry, Ms. Vanilla said. She had found a crinkle recipe at Williams-Sonoma. Her first batch, with a few tweaks, would be ready for tasting, and possible recipe tweaking, and the perfect name.

I practically sprinted to her booth Thursday. There they were, the dark beauties, nestled in a basket next to their chocolate chip cousins. "Brownie Cookies," said the sign.

"Gimme four, please," I said to her youngest son.

Crystalline sugar covers the cracked top of the moist and chewy chocolate cookie. Butter, cocoa, flour, sugar, eggs and a hint of vanilla hit my tongue. A smile lit my face, my eyes rolled back in my head, and my feet did a happy dance over to my pal.

Because when it comes to loving chocolate, Lady Gaga nailed it: "Baby, I was born this way."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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