The Surprising Inspiration Behind The Oreo Design

It's spawned an entire genre of desserts bearing its name, from cheesecake and cupcakes to ice cream; it's also got plenty of copycats and wanna-be's scattered all around the world. It's at the heart of debates that involve discussions of permutations as to how it is best enjoyed (twist vs. dunk). And because it is such an established part of food culture, it may come as a surprise that the classic Oreo may not exactly be the OG when it comes to chocolate sandwich cookies.

ThoughtCo explains that in 1912, about 14 years after several baking companies got together to become the National Biscuit Company ("Nabisco"), the company came up with the idea of putting together two chocolate disks, binding them together with a creme filling. And while it was a great idea, it wasn't original. In 1908, the Sunshine Biscuits Company had already come up with a similar cookie treat which we know today as Hydrox. (You can read about the rise, fall, and return of what it calls the "Proto-Oreo" at Gastro Obscura.) 

The etchings on an Oreo have an interesting history

Marketers credit Oreo's longevity to its name, which is both quick and easy to remember. And because we eat them more quickly than it takes to open a package, few of us are likely to take a close look at the cookie's design, which Spoon University helpfully describes as a circle with a two bar cross. The symbol in the center is Nabisco's, but it could also be inspired by the Cross of Lorraine, which history buffs will recognize as the belonging to the Knights Templar, who fought in the first crusades during the 11th century.

The ring that sits outside the Oreo circle shows a dot with four triangles, and is said to be a Cross Pattee, although some people see it as a ring of four-leaf clovers, which are a symbol of luck. Even the name itself is subject to speculation, with some Oreo fans claiming that the cookie's name is inspired by the French word for gold, or dore.

If anything, we think the fascinating stories behind the creation of the Oreo will only push the cookie past the heights it has already achieved. Oreos are already a hit with an average of 3 billion consumers a year, and we can't see you going wrong if you decide to buy a bag to check out its purported mystic symbolism before scarfing it down like most of us do.