Stone Cookies, a rare and simple treat

From Views from the Carrot Condo by
July 16, 2009

Even though the list of paradise fruits I’ve consumed continues to grow--sipping juice right out of the coconut for example (“look like one tourist!” my friend’s mother scolds)--a simple, plain, old-time treat still woos my palate. Paradise’s flashy fruits and magnificent blossoms could not make this treat look any more plain: flat, sort of roundish, pale cream colored, hard, not even any scent.

I first visited the Big Island of Hawaii in 1996 when I went with my best friend to stay with her parents in the Hilo home where she grew up. When her parents took us to the volcano, we stopped at a little bakery on the way and bought some cookies for later. Nothing suggested that I stood in the presence of the one item that can take me back to the Big Island in full sensory detail with one bite.

Later, relaxing in my friend’s parents’ mint green and white kitchen, feeling the ocean breeze enter the window of the sugar plantation house, my friend’s mom made coffee and brought out the cookies. I must have tried to take a bite of the rock-hard treat because I remember her telling me to dunk the cookie in coffee first...and that was the moment...the Proust moment of cookie and tea that unleashed a multivolume novel of memory...except for me, the cookie and coffee bite preserved a moment of my first visit to Hawaii that comes into full-sensory detail any time I taste the cookie and coffee, no matter where I am.

Thirteen years later, as we were all shocked to calculate, I return for my second visit--this time with a husband, the best friend on the mainland and not able to join us. We sit in my friend’s parents’ kitchen, still mint green and white with ocean breezes. We talk story and eat pineapple. The next day, my husband and I drive to the volcano, but first, we stop in Mt. View, a town of about six still-standing houses, the rest fallen or on the way, and two shops, the Mt. View Video Store and the Mt. View Bakery--home of the famous Stone Cookie.

As the story goes, in 1936, the baker aimed to make one thing, but ended up with the Stone Cookie--a mistake--a hard, flat, almost-white cookie. The bakery clerk compared the stone cookie to a biscotti, but that’s ridiculous, like comparing tea sipped in your kitchen to high tea at the Empress Hotel. Stone cookies do not involve the kind of effort or display or variety of biscotti. Incomparable.

Three generations later, the bakery and the Stone Cookie still exist, even though the building next to the video store has fallen to rubble. The clerk, unaware of my allegiance to the Stone Cookie, points out the new flavors of coconut, peanut butter, extra crispy, and “old-timer,” which bakes less time and is soft for the old faithful whose teeth can’t manage the original. I barely hide my immediate rejection of these other cookies as my husband orders a package of “old-timers.” I point to the original as if no other option exists. We get three packages but go back today for three more.

Amidst the vibrancy, perfume, and flare of lychee, papaya, dragonfruit, the stone cookie offers something elemental, like the striking primordial landscape of the volcano. They’re made out of basics anyone can obtain--mostly just flower, water, sugar, shortening. And yet, only one place makes them, and sold in only a few places on the Big Island. Refreshingly hard to find in a Starbucks landscape.

The only way to eat them, in my unwavering opinion, is dunked in plain, black coffee, the way my friend’s mom taught me to do. Not sweetened coffee, not coffee with soy creamer, not herbal tea (I tried it), just plain, black coffee. I’ve had three regular coffees since quitting caffeine in April, and I knew this morning would be the fourth exception.

While looking out at the volcano rainforest from our bedroom window, I poured maybe 1/2 cup coffee into a mug, dunked the first of my two stone cookies in, soaking it for a good 30 seconds (the fresher they are, the longer to soften), then took a bite. Bitter warmth of coffee meets simple sweetness and solid cookie. I turn the cookie to find the right angle, the most depth to dunk, and soak again, methodically repeating and turning until the whole cookie fits in the mug to dunk. Each bite soothes and warms.

I marvel dutifully and genuinely at the twenty-foot tall ferns, the heavy-as-a-bowling-ball banana blossom, the trumpet-sized tulips drooping heavily from branches, and the fact that it all sprouts from lava. But what I really love about Hawaii is how little I need to find happiness and peace: a towel, some sunscreen, and an adventurous friend who has already scouted out the most beautiful and empty beach; the drip of rain off the giant fern leaves singing me to sleep; and the perfectly accidental ratio of sugar, water, flour, shortening, and heat to dunk in coffee while talking story at the kitchen table.

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1. by heather blackbird on Jul 17, 2009 at 1:31 PM PDT

So well said. Hawaii brings out gratitude so effortlessly. I’ve never had one of these cookies, but I will be sure to next time I’m there. And thanks for “the mint green and white kitchen”. I needed the breeze. :o) xo heather

2. by aokanaka on Aug 8, 2009 at 6:07 PM PDT

I’m thrilled to read that the bakery was there a month ago! The phone number I’ve found in all the search results doesn’t work, and I feared they had closed. I want to get some Stone Cookies for my brother’s birthday. They used to send them to me, then they directed me (if memory serves) to another business who shipped for them, but now I can’t even get in touch with Mt. View bakery to ask how to accomplish what I want to do. Do you have a way of reaching them, or do you know who ships Stone Cookies now? Much mahalo in advance if so!

(I can probably find some friends ‘on the other side’ to buy and mail them, if the bakery is for sure still there, but I’d rather not ask-- ‘cause it is, after all, a Big Island...)

3. by TRISTA on Aug 15, 2009 at 2:10 PM PDT

This is the info. they print on their current label:
Mt. View Bakery, Inc.
PO Box 102
Mt. View, HI 96771
808-968-6353

I hope that helps. Let me know if they ship some to you! Of course, I’ll limit myself to getting them in person--more motivation to save my pennies and return to the island!

4. by carrie on Oct 1, 2009 at 9:05 AM PDT

They are still open. I grew up in Mt. View. My mom just sent me some last week. I think she must have sent me the softer ones. My husband likes this one, but it’s not the one I grew up up eating. I like the hard ones better. We were there last December and tried the chocolate ones (which my husband and daughter liked) and the raisin ones (which I liked).

5. by anonymous on Nov 30, 2009 at 3:07 PM PST

I was on the Big Island last the week before last visiting family and we made sure to get our stone cookie fix while we were there, my uncle loves the chocolate ship, I always loved the original but decided to try something new and got the coconut which I loved because I really enjoy coconut anything. Well written story, really brings the cookie to life! :)

6. by TRISTA on Dec 5, 2009 at 7:22 AM PST

Oh, I don’t remember seeing a coconut one. If it’s not soft, but the original STONE cookie, I might venture beyond my tradition! Lucky you for being on the Big Island...I’ve been daydreaming about it lately and seriosly missing all the fruit....

7. by irene on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:58 PM PST

Just returned to Puako from Hilo/Volcano via the Saddle Road. We stopped in Mt. View and checked out the bakery there. Never heard of Stone Cookies but bought a bag of the choc chip ones. Had no idea about dunking them in coffee but figured they would be better that way - can’t wait to try the combo. Loved the story and now wish I had bought more. Aloha.

8. by TRISTA on Feb 13, 2010 at 1:33 PM PST

Are the chocolate chip ones soft, or are they “stone” hard like the original? If they’re hard, I imagine that dipping them in black coffee will taste delicious! Let me know how you like them.

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