If you have young children, no doubt they are enthralled with Sesame Street and Jim Henson’s alphabet-reciting and number-counting Muppets. Characters such as Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Kermit and Oscar the Grouch have delighted kids for more than forty years.
If you are of a certain age, you probably grew up looking forward to Bert and Ernie’s bath time with rubber duckies and singing frogs yourself.
As a kid, Cookie Monster with his blue fur and googley eyes, had a special place in my heart, for sadly, like him, I was blessed with a sweet tooth. Naturally his zest for sweets appealed to me, as did his “om, nom, nom” and signature, “me want cookie,” biting a huge chunk of a large cookie to form the letter C. It always looked like the most mouth-watering chocolate chip cookie you could ever devour.
We’ve learned a lot about nutrition since then. Sugared chocolate cereals and ones with little marshmallow stars are now substituted with steel cut oatmeal or berries with yogurt. Broccoli florets and carrot sticks dipped in humus replace Ding-Dongs and Hostess Ho-Hos as after school snacks. So it is no surprise that Cookie Monster has had evolve to keep up with the times.
In 2006, in response to concerns about record levels of childhood obesity in the US, Sesame Street developed little features titled Healthy Habits for Life. The Muppet characters starting talking about eating right and getting exercise. It was even rumored that Cookie Monster’s name was going to be changed to Veggie Monster, or that he would be taken off the show entirely.
Luckily, Cookie Monster was able to adapt to the trends. He explained on Martha Stewart’s TV program that his new mantra was that “Cookies are a ‘sometimes’ food.”
The Ad Council also ran a sometimes food public service announcement with Cookie Monster and an off-camera roving reporter asking him whether he was going to eat cookies now. Cookie Monster replies that now he is eating fish and meat for strength and protein. Then he goes for carrots and peas for vitamins and then milk for good bones and teeth. In the background a big yellow front loader truck inches its way to the table. Finally, Cookie, that irrepressible blue sweet-toothed monster that he is, pulls out a whistle to signal to the front loader to drop its load. A cascade of hundreds of cookies pours over him: “Cooooookiessss.”
Now a mom myself, I am glad my kids have better choices in the school cafeteria line. They can choose apples and salads and even sometimes kale—albeit an acquired taste. And all of this is good. I suppose I’ll just have to forgive Cookie Monster for chasing broccoli and fish with the same chocolate chip gusto.
Just so long as he doesn’t go so far as to say: “Me want liver or tripe,” we’re good.