A cross-border cookie quest has me questioning my Canadian credentials

This First Person column is written by Elizabeth Nash, who lives in Kanata, Ont. For more information about First Person stories, see the FAQ.

It was a grey, overcast day in April and I was standing in a Walmart parking lot in Ogdensburg, N.Y., wondering if I should re-evaluate my life choices. 

I was meeting a seller in a parking lot and looking for her particular Jeep. Once I found it, I awkwardly waved to signal that I was ready to collect my embarrassing purchase. A woman stepped out of the Jeep wearing a T-shirt that said “Scout Grandma. A young girl followed her.

“Cookies?” the woman asked, and I nodded. That one word summed up both why I’d come all this way and the patriotic guilt that I felt for crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. to purchase 54 packages of baked goods. 

I was there to obtain the perfect cookies for my father — a cookie connoisseur who brought his appreciation of cookies with him when our family moved from Florida to Ontario in the mid-1990s. Dad taught me from an early age that there was a fundamental difference between Canada and our southern neighbour: The Girl Guides of Canada sell three flavours of cookies, but the Girl Scouts in the U.S. sell 12. When we moved north, Dad bemoaned the lack of options. Nearly three decades later, he still misses his favourites, the Caramel deLites and the Lemonades. (He views my preference for the Toast-Yay as a minor betrayal.) 

Six packages of Girl Scout cookies, including flavours such as Toffee-tastic, Lemon-Ups, S’mores and Tagalongs.
The Nash family has a particular fondness for the Girl Scouts cookies from the U.S. (Elizabeth Nash)

Two years ago, I surprised Dad with a bag full of these American cookies, procured from a friend of a friend who was visiting Ottawa from Maine. The treats were a huge success when I took them to Guelph, Ont., while I was visiting my parents. As a followup to this success, last spring Dad and I planned on ordering enough American cookies to share with our colleagues and friends. 

I felt like a bad Canadian as I put together this order. Where was my loyalty toward my home country, and what about my love of vanilla Girl Guide cookies? More importantly, should I not be buying 54 Canadian packages? Dad’s nostalgia for the cookies came face-to-face with my desire to spend locally. 

The matter was complicated by my dual citizenship. I’d spent the vast majority of my life in Canada, and here I was, not supporting the country where I lived. At the same time, perhaps this was a way to explore my American roots in the most delicious way possible.

Then disaster struck, perhaps in retribution for being such a bad citizen. Our cookie contact was no longer able to visit. The order was cancelled. 

That’s how the cookie crumbles, as they say.

Except Dad would have none of it. He was in problem-solving mode. He reached out to a newspaper in upstate New York, figuring that it would have local scouting connections. He was put in touch with a woman in Watertown, N.Y., who would be visiting Ogdensburg with her Girl Scout granddaughter in the coming weeks. That would put her about 90 minutes south of me. 

Then came the all-important question: Would I go and pick up the cookies? 

The same guilt from earlier haunted me. I was a believer in supporting local communities and buying 54 packages of American cookies might make me The Worst Canadian Ever. It would certainly be hypocritical of me to talk about supporting Canadians and then pop across the border to pick up a shameful number of cookies.

Clarity struck the day I made my decision to go to upstate New York for the cookies. It wasn’t about cookies or my citizenship — this was about Dad. He moved to Guelph with my family in search of better opportunities for us. He slept on the floor of my bedroom during thunderstorms because I was scared and didn’t want to be alone. He attended countless dance recitals. He slogged through a difficult job to support my family. 

A smiling girl in a leotard holds a teddy bear. She’s hugged by a smiling man with glasses. They’re both posing for a photo.
Nash, with her dad, Vincent Nash, moved to Ontario from Florida in the mid-1990s. (Submitted by Elizabeth Nash)

I would never be able to pay back Dad for a lifetime of love and support, but I could certainly buy him some cookies.

Ultimately, my boyfriend and I drove down to Ogdensburg, found our new cookie contact, and I mentally apologized to the entire country of Canada as we loaded our car. Once we were back in Ottawa, I started putting together Dad’s package of cookies to ship to Guelph.

I could have put a note in the box for him: Thank you for a lifetime of love. Thank you for the work I didn’t notice. Thank you for being present. 

A smiling woman holds five cardboard boxes of cookies as she stands on a sunny porch.
Nash purchased 54 packages of Girl Scout cookies from the U.S. for her dad. (Submitted by Elizabeth Nash)

I didn’t write anything. My father isn’t an overly sentimental man. He would laugh and roll his eyes if he received something like that. The cookies themselves were the message, and I can confirm that he was thrilled to receive the shipment. 

I still feel some lingering guilt about the cookie odyssey, but I’ve found a way to even the score. I’m sure that over a lifetime, I’ll purchase at least 54 packages of the Canadian version. 

So if you need to find me, listen for the sound of crunching — and you’ll find me with a Girl Guide cookie. 

WATCH | You know what these cookies need? Some milk, bagged or in a jug: 

Bag or jug? Why milk is sold differently across Canada

4 months ago

Duration 1:28

Milk bags first entered the Canadian market in the late 1960s. But why is bagged milk the norm in Ontario, Quebec and Maritime provinces but not other parts of the country? The answer involves the metric system and consumer habits.

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