These days, Nabisco’s diminutive Oreo might be a mainstay in supermarkets, convenience stores, and vending machines. However, these black-and-white sandwich cookies received great inspiration from the Hydrox, the original, introduced by Sunshine Biscuits in 1908, four years earlier than the Oreo. Whether or not you prefer the darker chocolate of the Hydrox – or that it still tastes as good as it did back in 1908 (quite an exclamation) – there’s no denying that the origin of both cookie names is unusual.
Whereas Hydrox is a portmanteau of hydrogen and oxygen, the two elements composing water, it was also controversial in that the term “hydrox” was more commonly known as both being a company selling hydrogen peroxide (for bleaching and for disinfecting), and as another term for soda. Doesn’t sound like the most appealing name for food, hey? Might as well name your firstborn “Student Loans.”
The history of “Oreo” is even more dubious, as it either refers to the Greek word for mountain (Όρος “oros”) – since the cookies originally were slightly mounded – or the French word for gold (or), because the first packages were golden.
Alas, we’re not here to cover the background, or the rivalry between the two brands. Instead, we’re going to focus on Oreos – and their knock-offs – from all over the world.
The discoveries were mostly in North America and East Asia – no shock there – but there will be a nuanced example at the end.
The United States
Nothing too unique found in the US; yet, three of the brands don’t even hail from the country. Then again, there’s the token gluten–free “Oreo,” but I wouldn’t touch those with a 10-meter cattle prod.
To start off this post’s language lesson, “giro” in Spanish means “turn,” which reflects the most famous way Oreos have been eaten. Also, although there is a word for sandwich (샌드위치 senduwichi) in Korean, the Lotte package abbreviates it to 샌드 “sendu.” Japanese does this too; the verb “to make into a sandwich” is サンドする (sando suru), literally “to sandwich.”
Considering the bright colors, I could stick this package on the back of my metaphorical bike, in lieu of a yellow reflector. Found in Mexico City, this Oreo “trio” offered a combo of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, better known as the Neapolitan.
Apologies for the inferior photo quality, but the most important aspect of the photo is clear enough. “Ord.” That’s a good one. But might it be shorthand for the Chinese ghost city aka Ordos? No. No way.
These Indonesian “Dueto” look like pieces of chocolate instead of sandwich cookies. Maybe marshmallow is in the middle? Tidak (no), it’s not. They were also extremely artificial tasting. But what’s that sneaking into the photo on the bottom?…
Ooh, now we’re talkin’. Tried these coconut delight Oreos in Solo (Surakarta), and they were addictive. Deliberately took the photo in front of the sign which translates as “ginger alley 3.” Ginger-flavored Oreos? Perhaps one day…
Which Oreo (or Oreoesque) cookies would you like to try first?