Thursday, April 21, 2022

How a smart cookie created Abraham Lincoln in Oreo icing

A closeup of careworn Abe Lincoln, The Cookie. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)

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Laura Van Alstyne Rowland has something probably no other Lincoln fanatic on the planet owns: an Oreo cookie with a profile of the 16th president in the white icing. And, yes, I’m jealous.

Laura Van Alystne Rowland poses with the cookie 
in her Lincoln Room.
In 2014, Tess Collett—an intern in a Utah hospital under Rowland’s supervision—created it with toothpicks and love. Then she gifted it to Rowland, now a retired clinical social worker. The cookie hangs in a frame in the Lincoln Room of the Rowlands’ historic home in Sharpsburg, Md., steps from a bust of Lincoln, dozens of Lincoln books, and framed snippets of hair from Abe and Mary Lincoln.

Like Lincoln, the Oreo isn’t perfect—the cracks snaking through the chocolate wafer and the flaking frosting make the eight-year-old cookie creation look careworn. But in its own quirky way, the thing exudes confidence, an aura even. So, I sought out the—oh, gawd, please stop—smart cookie who created it.

Collett, a 31-year-old, self-employed  testing psychology worker, has a PhD in clinical psychology. She splits time between Salt Lake City and Phoenix. Collett apparently also has a master’s in Oreo Cookie Crafting, which they didn’t offer last century while I attended West Virginia University for 13 years.

“Laura was such a supportive, amazing supervisor at the hospital,” says Collett, “and I was a young buck and knew she loved Lincoln. It was her passion.”

Tess Collett, "artsy" Lincoln
 cookie creator
So, Collett—an “artsy person” with “scattered passions”—found an image of Lincoln on Google and went to work creating the gift. She estimates it took 30 minutes to scrape away the icing with a toothpick to make Abe.

“It was like sculpting.”

Upon receiving the Lincoln Oreo, Rowland looked at it with "amazement and love," says Collett.

“It was a one-of-a-kind gift for a one-of-a-kind person.”

I recently persuaded Rowland to take the framed Lincoln Oreo on a road trip in the footsteps of the real Lincoln on his early October 1862 journey to the Antietam battlefield. What a treat. The Oreo, which refused an interview request, somehow survived the arduous round trip from Sharpsburg to Frederick, Md. But after examining a closeup photo of her long-ago creation, Collett expressed concern.

"I might have to make her a new one. That thing is really starting to look old."

No one, after all, wants to see a cookie crumble. 😃

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