Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quercus Alba Ingredients List Found! (maybe)

Interest in the guerrilla cookie is heating up thanks to the UW Alumni Association. They came up with a great idea for this year’s Alumni Weekend (April 27-28): serving up fondly remembered campus foods at an event they are calling “Madison’s Main Course, Quintessential Cuisine Past and Present.”

Feedback from alumni uncovered a strong desire for guerrilla cookies, so Wendy Hathaway, WAA web editor was assigned to track down a recipe. Her research led her to this blog and to other sources. She emailed me while doing her research, mentioning that "we stumbled on a recipe for the infamous guerrilla cookie that was handed down through a local family," and that the staff at UW Union catering was working to recreate it.

I answered a few questions for her and asked for the recipe. She responded that she herself didn't have it but that she'd try her best to get it to me. I don't have it yet. I'm wondering if it's the Mary McDowell recipe that was used for the Mifflin Street Co-op attempted re-creation in 2004.

Then, on March 4, Hathaway wrote on the WAA website, “A recently discovered ingredients list (saved long ago from a package of guerrilla cookies made at Quercus Alba Bakery) has inspired a new attempt at guerrilla cookies — they'll be part of the spirit of community and connections at Alumni Weekend.”

She continued, "Our top-secret campus chef is still working on finalizing his recipe for the Alumni Weekend event.”

“As for that top-secret recipe we’re using for the big April event? You’ll have to get your ticket and stop by the Pyle Center to decide how close we came to solving the mystery of the guerrilla cookie.”

I emailed Hathaway suggesting that what would truly be in the “spirit of community and connections at the Alumni Weekend” would be sharing that ingredients list.

She replied, "I still haven't seen the ingredients list in person, we're working with a team of bakers to re-create them as best we can, and re-create enough for Alumni Weekend. Hopefully we'll have more to share after that event."

I'll wait until after Alumni weekend to pester Wendy and the WAA even more for the recipe and ingredients list. I'll be honest, though: Hathaway seems like a nice enough person, but the emphasis on secrecy is making me wonder if the claim to have an original ingredients list isn't just a ploy to increase attendance at the April event. Prove me wrong, Wendy!

As Lindy wrote on the blog that started all this back in 2007: “It is my firm belief that Recipes are for The People! (If I had it), I'd feel honor bound to liberate that recipe, and won't be pretending otherwise."

“I'm not actually kidding about this,” Lindy added. “I don't like the whole concept of hoarded secret recipes and firmly believe the sharing and preparing of real food is an important human link.”

I agree. So, Wendy and Top-secret Campus Chef: After you've gotten what mileage you can out of secrecy before the event, how about getting in the true guerrilla spirit by  liberating that ingredients list? Power to the People!


I'm going to attend the April 28 event, but I might be a bit jet-lagged. My husband and I will have recently returned from a WAA trip to South Africa and a stay-over with a college friend who now lives in Pretoria. I endorse those WAA trips even more enthusiastically than I endorse guerrilla cookies.

You can register for the "Quintessential Cuisine" event here. It's on Saturday evening, April 28, 6:00-8:00PM; $33 for WAA members and $36 for everyone else.


  1. Update: A column by Doug Moe in the March 23 Wisconsin State Journal includes this: Sarah Shutt, the organizer for the WAA's culinary legends events "said that Carl Korz, director of dining services at the Memorial Union, recently obtained a reliable ingredients list and has been working hard on perfecting a guerrilla cookie that will honor the original."

    Moe repeats the story--which Odell has denied--that Mary MacDowell had a guerrilla recipe which she gave to the Mifflin St. Coop in 2005. That recipe is gone, too, unless MacDowell still has a copy because 'a disgruntled employee absconded with it.' (Reminder: 'Disgruntled' is often in the eye of the beholder.)

    Moe's reference to 'a reliable ingredients list,' then is ambiguous whether it's a reliable list for the guerrilla cookie or for the MacDowell cookie.

  2. in any case please taste them for us and share your impressions! I would love to make another attempt with the original ingredients...sadly, I cannot be in Madison on this weekend.

  3. Hi Karen
    I just tried your last Guerilla Cookie Recipe "78". I wanted to see exactly what you were making, but something was way wrong with the bulgur wheat. It was like uncooked rice, if just a bit smaller grains. Letting the recipe rest after mixing for 2 hours wasn't enough to soften that stuff. I am not sure that 24 hours would have done much to soften the bulgur, but maybe boiling it might.
    I am going to have to try my last recipe again now to see where it may be off.
    I am tempted to go to the Alumni thing to see what they come up with. My fear would be that none of them will be old enough to have actually tasted the originals. Can't wait to hear about that though.