This week marked the beginning of the main spring fundraiser at my sons’ school. What this means is that my neighborhood has been invaded by an army of adorable door-to-door salesmen. Children packing full-colored brochures full of glossy photos of fresh-baked cookies launch their indefensible attacks every day as they walk home from the bus stop.
And I can’t say no, right? I mean they are peddling 2.7-pound tubs of cookie dough in 22 varieties, most sporting names that make my mouth water. Of course I need giant tubs of cookie dough. I can put them in my freezer and pop out just a little bit to make a small cookie snack. And I’ll have several varieties to make a mix of delicious cookies for a family gathering or an upcoming road trip. That will totally work. I will not sit down in front of the TV with a tub full of cookie dough and a spoon.
I could resist it. I work out regularly and more or less watch what I eat. I take care of myself, but I do occasionally tire of listening to the little health nut that lives inside my head. Sometimes I’m ready to let the cookies step in and take over for a while.
I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this experience, and that perhaps, even you, dear reader, have allowed cookie mania to invade your brain from time to time. Actually it occurred to me that this phenomenon is not entirely new in the course of human history, either, and might even be the elusive explanation for a piece of history that isn’t well understood.
In AD 711, Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad invaded the Visigoth-controlled Iberian Peninsula. The Visigoths had been in charge for about 300 years at that point, and rumor has it, no one liked them very much. Making up only a small percentage of the population of the region, the Visigoths most likely ruled with brutal force, but ultimately they had little cultural influence on the region because with no written language of their own, there were very few Visigoth bloggers.
Not a whole lot is known about the invasion outside of a few tales that were most likely constructed many years after the event (by Moorish bloggers, which just like their modern counterparts had the tendency exaggerate, or on occasion even make things up), but one thing that does stick out in the history is that the invasion didn’t take that long. In fact, it was kind of easy. Some tales even suggest that the Berber army was invited into the region by enemies of the Visigoth’s King Roderick.
The invaders killed the king and with the army in disarray, the Iberian Romans seem to have been uninterested in stepping up to defend themselves from their newest conquerors. So as the defeated Visigoths laced up their corsets, donned their trench coats, stained their lips black, and started hanging out behind the high school gymnasium, enter nearly 800 years of rule by the Islamic Moors in the Iberian Peninsula.
Unlike the previous conquerors, the Muslims had an enormous impact on the culture of the region. Today their influence is seen most dramatically in the architecture, art, and bits of language they left behind in Spain. They developed a highly advanced society becoming a world center for education and the exchange of ideas, while making great strides in agriculture, science, and, most importantly, cookies.
This is the one main point that I believe Historians have tended to overlook. No, we don’t have very reliable sources that explain why the Berbers pushed their way into the Iberian Peninsula and we can really only make some good guesses as to why they so easily conquered the ruling Visigoths. What we do know is that this invasion marks the introduction of the cookie (originally developed in Persia) into Europe.
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to resist anyone who brings me cookies, or even the promise of a tub full of cookie dough in imaginative flavors for which I have no recipe, like Extra Chunky Chocolate with Reese’s Pieces. 15 dollars you say? You want to defeat the Visigoths and rule the land, you say? I’m sold. Hand me a spoon.