Apparently these have been a thing for a while. Makes sense. It's not the first time I've been oblivious to a product that has existed in the world at large for months or years, only to have Trader Joe's draw my attention to it when they offer their own iteration of said product.
If I'd had these as a kid, I'd have undoubtedly played with my food until yelled at by one or both of my parents. I would have lined the little cookie men up on the side of a mug of hot chocolate and pretended it was me and my friends by the poolside in the summer. I'd have imagined the marshmallows as little floaties and tried to get the gingerbread men to lay on top of them without sinking into the hot cocoa.
Or I'd have imagined the cookie men were villains about to be summarily executed by being thrown into a vat of boiling liquid or perhaps eaten by a hungry dinosaur—played by yours truly—limb by limb, all the while begging for mercy.
I might have imagined them as deep sea divers, about to plunge into the abyss to explore an unknown trench, only to be consumed by a giant sea monster, again played by me. At any rate, I'd have had fun. Lots of fun.
And I'm not saying they're not fun as an adult. They are. They're cute, seasonally-appropriate, and quite tasty for pre-packaged gingerbread. If they'd had guts made of cookie butter, they might be even more impressive.
And they actually hang on to the side of your mug. I was thinking maybe we needed mugs with wider rims or something, but each mug we tried was easily straddled by the little mug-hangin' buggers. The foot on the inside on the mug actually dangles into your hot beverage of choice and is fully saturated within seconds, ready to be slurped off the cookie. Of course, he doesn't hang quite so well with only one leg left so you've got to do some old-fashioned cookie dunking at that point, but I'm perfectly fine with that.
The recipe seems pretty much like classic gingerbread. It's got a sweet, cinnamony essence and wheaty base. There's not much in the way of real ginger or any other pungent spices, so it's more of a "kids' gingerbread" flavor by my estimation. I'm usually turned off by an overabundance of clove and allspice, so plain sweet cookies are fine with me, especially when paired with a beverage.
The cookies are plenty crunchy and crispy until they get wet, at which point they become nice and soft and even more delicious. Not sure if we'll pick these up again next year, but they'll get two thumbs up and about four Christmas stars a piece from Sonia and me.
Bottom line: 8 out of 10.