Culture At Large

Sin and raw cookie dough

Johnathan Kana

No more scraping the bowl, folks. Raw cookie dough can make you sick.

If you think you've heard that before, you're right. But now there's a twist. According to a consumer update released last month by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s not just the raw eggs you need to worry about. It’s also the flour. Since December, dozens of E. coli infections have been linked to contaminated flour processed at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, prompting an expansive recall. And this isn't the first time raw dough has precipitated an E. coli scare.

That's bad news for people like me. After all, cookie dough is my quintessential “guilty pleasure” — emblematic of all the things in life I know I ought not to enjoy, but do anyway. My love of the stuff began in my mother's kitchen, where sampling the unbaked mixture was an indispensable rite in a sacred culinary ceremony. Back then, however, it was only a novel foretaste of a superior dessert, and I used to complain when my brother swiped fingerfuls from the bowl while my mother wasn’t looking. “Stop!” I'd whine. “We're not going to have enough cookies!”

These days, I crave cookie dough at least as much as cookies — maybe more. It's not that cookie dough offers something that fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies lack. It's just that cookie dough means having your dessert now. Never mind the fact that I could have soft, warm cookies in 12 minutes with a little extra effort. Succumbing to the lure of immediate gratification, I'm as apt to reach for a spoon as to preheat the oven. I've grown all too content to let an unfinished dessert substitute for the real thing.

I'm not alone, either. Many have booed the FDA — some playfully, others in earnest — for ruining one of America's favorite indulgences. “We don't want to grow up,” consumers are saying. “Let us have our dough and eat it, too!” Sadly, I suspect many of us still will, even at the risk of bloody diarrhea. That's what we do: ignore warnings and persist in pleasurable things, even when we know they're bad for us.

I'm making a spiritual discipline out of kicking the cookie dough habit.

So I'm making a spiritual discipline out of kicking the cookie dough habit. I've decided it's about more than saying no to a favorite childhood treat. It's about persisting in the struggle against my besetting sins — all those indulgent “little” acts of rebellion I allow myself to enjoy, despite the Bible's clear warnings. We live in a society that tolerates and even celebrates things like greed, drunkenness, dishonesty and obscenity, so it's easy to minimize the spiritual consequences of habitual sin. But such things harden the heart and sear the conscience. If we're not careful, our impatience for abundant life will lead us to routinely gratify the flesh in a way that actually distances us from the only One who offers the satisfaction we crave.

Cookie dough isn't a sin, of course, but for me it's a powerful metaphor. I'm convinced that God is in the kitchen making some pretty amazing cookies, but we're impatiently sneaking fingerfuls of dough when we imagine He's not watching. It's time to stop. Eventually, it's going to make us sick — and it's not worth ending up with fewer cookies to enjoy around His table.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith