Coincidence? Hardly Seems Possible

So tonight I decided to burn a few extra calories and walk to a subway stop across town, from 18th & 6th to 14th & 1st. As is my wont, the whole way I kept an eye out for interesting food developments–a new restaurant, a particularly good-looking slice of pizza–but fought the urge to stop anywhere; after all, I was supposed to be “exercising.” (According to the nifty new Google Maps hack pedometer, I walked 1.05 miles–better than nothing, right?)

When I reached First Ave, the walk/don’t walk sign was giving me the big red hand, so I turned right and headed downtown, intending to circle back when the light was in my favor. But before I even reached 13th Street, I was mesmerized by three stacks of big, beautiful, familiar cookies in a no-frills bakery’s window. What was this? They looked exactly–and I mean exactly–like City Bakery’s three basic varieties, the chocolate/white chocolate chunk, the oatmeal raisin, and of course, the chocolate chip. Without even thinking, I walked in. Besides the three kinds of cookies, only three other types of baked goods were on display: croissants, puff-pastry cinnamon rolls, and two varieties of muffins. There was only one person in the place, a young woman sitting behind the counter, talking on her cell phone. She put her friend on hold and greeted me.

“I’ll take a chocolate chip, please.”

She started to wrap one up.

“They look exactly like City Bakery’s cookies,” I said as I handed her some cash.

“Yeah, everyone says that,” she said. “Funny thing is, I’ve never even been to City Bakery.”

At that point, I decided not to push it. Until I tasted the cookie, I couldn’t very well accuse this nice young woman of stealing their recipes, could I?

I managed to wait until I got home to taste it. Sure enough, it’s my ideal cookie, the buttery, brown sugary, chewy-crunchy epitome of all that is chocolate chip goodness. Either that woman is a bald-faced liar, or someone stole CB’s recipes and sold them to her.

Now, I’d be all excited about this if the darn things were at least cheaper than CB’s. But they’re not–it’s the same $2 a cookie, without CB’s imprimatur. Odd, don’t you think? I mean, I know recipes can’t exactly be copyrighted (only the wording of them can be), but what are the odds on literally half this little shop’s offerings being identical to one of the most popular bakeries in town? If the recipes were that easy to replicate, wouldn’t we be seeing them everywhere?

Conspiracy theories are welcome in the Comments section.

Update 1/6/06 here.