Would you take a cookie from a stranger?

Posted: December 3, 2013 in Musings
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Would you take a cookie from a stranger?


When our girls were young, we carefully told them about not talking to strangers and made sure they stayed near us when we were at a mall or other place with lots of people.  One day we were outside.  I was working in the yard when a woman walked by.  I said hello and chatted for a minute.  After she left, the girls queried, “Do you know her?”  When I said I didn’t, they said (of course), “You talked to a stranger.”

OK, let’s try this again.

In Philadelphia over Thanksgiving, we rode the bus several times so we could see the city rather than travel underground on the subway.  As I sat next to an old man, his gnarled hands resting on the head of his cane, I thought about Christmas.   Most years, I make plates of cookies, candy and my famous peanut butter fudge to take to people at the places I frequent most often—the library, certain stores, some years the post office, my hair stylist.

As I sat, watching all the Black Friday shoppers, glad not to be part of them, I imagined how much fun it would be to make packages of cookies to hand out to people on the bus (or wherever I was), to bring Christmas joy to people who weren’t expecting it.

Then “stranger danger” kicked in.

Would anyone take cookies from someone they didn’t know?  Would people take the cookies and throw them away because they might be tainted?  Would the city/state/FDA be after me for producing food without a government-approved kitchen?  Would someone report me to the police?  I don’t know.  Hopefully not the last two but the first two are entirely possible.  (How sad that such thoughts even occur to me and are within the realms of possibility!)

So I ask you.  Would you take a package of Christmas cookies from a stranger?

  1. mpejovic says:

    Great question! I’d answer probably not to that. If it was a bake sale at school, yes, but not from a complete stranger on the street. I don’t think you’d have to worry about the FDA or city, as long as you don’t try to sell them. Then, the city would want its share…

    This reminds me of a video I saw a few months ago, from this girl who took part in a book giveaway challenge. It happens every year and you sign up to receive 50 books (I think) of your choosing, and you give them away to complete strangers to encourage reading. It took her the WHOLE day to give away those books. Did I say they were FREE?

    • Heck, I’d take all 50 if they were any good. 🙂 Books are so different from food.

      Many, many years ago, my mom taught in an inner city school where many of the children didn’t even own a single book and maybe their families didn’t either. I couldn’t even fathom that and I remember that I gave her some of my Scholastic paperbacks books to give to them because to be book-less seemed to me to be a fate worse than death.


  2. Good question … I would, if the stranger seemed like a reasonable person after the exchange of a few words. I think the vast majority of people are decent, kind folks just going about their business and the chances of getting anything more or less than cookies and good cheer are actually tiny.

    • I think you’re right, but it’s the perception that’s the issue. From what I’ve read, there really weren’t lots of incident with homemade Halloween treats, yet no one can give out homemade anything for Halloween anymore. If I were writing a conspiracy novel, it could be about the candy companies creating a few incident and then magnifying them so that everyone would have to buy their candy. 🙂


  3. Bastet says:

    Ah…my first reply was nope…then I started thinking about particular occasions, ergo at the library during holidays etc. So, I guess, that as a 61 year old adult with a bit of experience of life, I’d sometimes refuse and sometimes accept…depends no?

    • That’s a realistic answer but isn’t it sad that we can’t just say, “Wow! Thanks a lot.” and take the cookies? Thanks for weighing in, Georgia.


      • Bastet says:

        Yeah…I do agree that it is sad…wish I could have given you a different answer Janet…but times and training being what they are…

  4. Isn’t it funny how we have created a climate of suspicion that overrides our reactions and makes us suspicious of spontaneous kindness? I listen to my instinct – my parents taught me to trust my “gut feeling” about people, and it’s rarely been wrong. If I was really suspicious, I’d test the cookies on my dog first (*joke*).

    • 🙂 Or on your husband. Ha! I really think that the media has overblown the situation and TV doesn’t help. If, for instance, there were as many murders as there on on TV, we not only wouldn’t have a population problem, we’d be losing people at a rapid rate. The media reports only bad things and I think our perception of the amount of bad/evil in the world is skewed by that.


  5. sued51 says:

    It’s sad that we can’t follow our *true* best instincts to be giving…but you are right…I think a lot of people would not take a cookie from a stranger.
    Interesting comment above about the girl trying to give away the books…goes along with the present fact that many charities will not take books! As a book lover, I find that sad.

  6. I don’t think I’d take the chance. No, not that the stranger might have tainted the cookies, but that I’d gain too much weight!

  7. I would not accept any food, to include a cookie, that is not from someone I know, or a trusted source — because sometimes I DO know the person, and I’ve seen their kitchen, hence, a “trusted source.” I’d eat YOUR cookies, Janet, or granola, or any other item from the Webb kitchen! But I know you and I’ve seen your kitchen cleanliness. Even free coffee stands at Interstate Rest Areas, on holiday travel weekends, usually indicate who is giving the food/drink away. Do you trust them? I stop at Starbucks, Caribou, or Dunkin Donuts (America runs on Dunkin!).
    As for giving food away, a friend of mine was stopped by the police for giving out free soup that she made at home. They told her she couldn’t give it away to the public if it was not prepared in a facilty that was inspected and approved by the city’s health department.

    • Good morning, Christopher. I didn’t think about the cleanliness aspect of it. But as for your last point about the police, that doesn’t surprise me at all and is the reason I mentioned that possibility in my post.

      On an unrelated note, did you know that Peet’s Coffee bought Caribou? In some states, the brand is staying Caribou; in others, it’s changing or has changed to Peet’s. And Starbucks is debuting tea houses under that Teavana name.


  8. Pete says:

    Your story reminded me of my lovely neighbour ‘Old Mary’ a lovely lady in her 80’s who was a forceful Roman Catholic, had a wicked sense of humour, even telling us a small New Year party she held for a few of us that she gets a tingle every time she thought about a banana and what has past. She told an hilarious story of when she was a young married woman and being RC she was taught the ‘Rythem Method’ where a womans temperature was taken via her bottom to make sure that she could not get pregnant. This is Marys words (as I remember it ) “Bill was a little bit horny so I laid on my belly on the bed then like a cat having its back scratched my arse when into the air and my Bill put in the thermometer, I told him to clean her teeth s he was not going near me with a mouth of ale.”
    She carried on
    ” I got a sudden cramp in my leg let out a howl and laid round forgetting what was sticking out my arse, with that I lost it right up there.”
    By this time we were laughing so much that we were all leaving wet spots.
    Then she said
    ” I should on Bill ‘Forget your damn teeth I have lost the bloody thermometer up my arse, bring a pair of pliers’ Then my Bill came back with a rusty pair of pliers big enough to rip of balls off a bull.”

    At that point she helped herself to another gin and went into a daze and said “I loved my Bill”

    I wanted to let you know a bit about Mary before I get to the point. Mary was a constant smoker and the front of her permed hair was nicotined stained, her hair was white apart from from this yellow curls at the front. She loved to bake and every day she baked and would bring us cookies, fairy cakes, Victoria sponges, we would come home from work or a day out and there hanging on the door handle would be this tatty carrier bag filled with goodies.

    The only drawback was like Marys hair the cakes reeked of cigarettes, also tasted of the same. We all loved Mary this 4ft 6in Geordie (from Newcastle) old yellow stained fantastic lady who insisted that we have cakes every day, if she caught us in she would come in for a cup of tea and then we had to eat one of her cakes.

    So your question ‘Would you take a cookie from a stranger?’ I have had to eat one of Mary’s nicotine cakes and survived, so a pretty wrapped cookie are not going to do any harm 🙂

    Unfortunately Mary died last year after a short time in a care home. She was one of the brightest stars in my world and was generous to a fault, she used to buy little things in charity shops and give them to her neighbours, just little trinkets, a cup and saucer, a candle holder, but it was the thought and it brightened our day.

    As a footnote Mary was brought up in a RC orphanage by nuns who beat the children for wetting the beds and made to stand out side wrapped in the wet sheet in the summer or winter, she went into service as a house maid and then into the army where she met Bill, they married before Bill went to Dunkirk. Bill died in 2003. She was a fantastic lady and I do hope she is up in heaven making all the saints laugh with her stories.

    Sorry it was a book, but I thought about Mary’s cakes and the act of giving, but I had to tell her story.

  9. Colline says:

    In this day and age, I do not think I would.

    • I think that’s true for many people. I guess it says something about my age that I only thought of that after I thought about how much fun it would be to do all the gifting. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Colline.


  10. No, I probably would decline the cookies. It’s sad that we have become suspicious of strangers nowadays, but when I was a child, i was taught never to speak to strangers. I think some lessons stick with us throughout our lives.

    • I think you’re right but I wonder whether the danger is as real as we believe. What percentage of people, strangers or not, are actually dangerous, even in a small way? What level of danger is unacceptable to us even if it is real? And much violence is perpetrated by family members and friends. It’s a say situation as you say. Thanks for weighing in.


  11. My kids would take the cookies! They would never get into a stranger’s car or go in a stranger’s house, but they’d take their chances on the cookies! 🙂

    • And if you said peanut butter fudge, well I might just take my chances too…

      • Pete says:

        Think about it, Where did the author get the recipe for the Peanut Butter Fudge from, its eaten world wide, no one owns recipes. My wife makes a fantastic veggie soup, I have seen recipes for the same soup, my wife was taught to make it from her granny and she got it from her mother, toffee apples, peanut brittle, bounty bars, Victoria sponge cakes, with or without a range of jelly and jams, everyone makes them. I make a mean fennel wine, ginger wine and Scottish strawberry wine, so, my peanut fudge loving friend I say Post and be damned 🙂

      • However, it’s in a copyrighted cookbook. I know people post other people’s copyrighted recipes all over the internet but having a blog makes me very aware of poaching on the intellectual property of others. I always try to get permission if possible and most authors so far have been very gracious, as well as extremely happy that I asked first.

        Your wines sound really interesting!


      • Pete says:

        The fennel is a 16th century health drink, its said to aid digestion and curb obesity. Fennel is also a diuretic. You make it with a fennel infusion. As for recipes, what if you put your own spin on it 🙂

  12. Pete says:

    I was thinking about the free cookies while walking around the supermarket, then low and behold there in front of me was a paper plate with samples of cookies and cakes there for the taking and people were helping themselves – How many of those people had ‘peanut hands’ ?

    If you don’t know what peanut hands are, it is said on most bars there are a bowl of peanuts/snacks for the customers to enjoy while drinking, with every mouthful a person takes there is a huge possibility that they are sampling some ones urine past to the peanuts from the person before you not washing their hands after a visit to the bars bathroom…….

    • I think that people are often too worried about germs. Witness the advent of anti-bacterial soap, which turned out to be not a good thing. We need to build up resistance to germs and while people should certainly do a better job of washing hands, I haven’t heard of outbreaks of illness from bar food, bad as it may be, or samples. Good idea for a bar to have peanuts in the shell, don’t you think? I’m always amused at the restrooms that have automatic everything, so you don’t have to touch anything, and then have doors with handles that open inward, so to get out, you have to touch the handle. I generally use a paper towel (if there is one) or part of my clothing, rather than touch what is usually the germ-iest part of the whole process. 🙂


      • Pete says:

        There is a big thing about dirt in hospitals here at the moment and I quite agree, I was in hospital last year and was allowed up for a shower, I went into the shower and there was blood up the walls and remnants of poo around the edges of the shower tray. I refused to shower in there, the nurse said they are short of cleaners. I told her that wasn’t my problem and wanted to speak to the hospital manager. They found a cleaner really fast. My mother was a nurse and she said that the ward sisters in the 50’s & 60’s made sure that the wards they were responsible for was spotless, the beds were perfectly spaced and made and if they were not God help the nurses who were responsible for, my mother said that the cleaning was the responsibility of the nurses as well as the experienced and well trained cleaners. The cleaners belonged to a ward, they worked in pairs and rotated around the wards that the sister was responisble for cleaning around the clock, the cleaners knew the nurses and the nurses knew the cleaners and they all worked part of a well oiled machine.

        In the UK hospitals to much money is wasted on hospital managers who command extremely high wages for doing what the ward sisters did 50 years ago when the NHS was worth it.
        The way it should be run is:
        2 Ward sister -responsible of up to 4 wards and everything that goes on including the power of disciplinaries, employment and sacking.
        8 Nurses who will work in the 4 wards responible for the care and doing what they have been well trained for but paperwork stops them doing what they wish to do.
        8 Clinical assistances trained in health and hygine in the 4 wards resposible for welfare of the patients making sure they get meals, drinks, taken to the toilet, bedpans, showers baths ect
        8 cleaners in the 4 wards who do nothing but clean on a continuous rota so tgere is always a cleaner.

        Get rid of the managers, their wages will pay for real hardworking staff. Old people have died in hospital of thirst, they have drunk water from flower vases, left to lay in their own waste because staff have not had time, nurses wearing incontinence pads as they don’t hsve time to use the bathroom. This is the modern NHS, not the vison of the founder Bevan in 1948 which was the pride of Great Britain, now a crumbling wreak brought about by greed, bad management and wasted millions on lavish dinner parties, business class flights and hand made furniture for over paid managers.

        As a footnote when I was in hospital, I asked for a bed pan and the nurse said, soon as I can, but if you cannot wait we will just change the sheets……