There’s no debate on the popularity of the chocolate chip cookie. Some say they’re “the perfect antidote to the Great Depression.” They were included in WWII care packages from home, they’re what we leave out for Santa with a glass of milk, and they’re the treat that makes the Cookie Monster’s eyes bug out of his head. Let’s look at the history of Ruth Graves Wakefield and her famous chocolate chip cookie.
The chocolate chip cookie first came to life in the mid-30s in the popular Toll House Inn. At the time, they specialised in home-style cooking. Located in Whitman, Massachusetts, it was here Ruth Graves Wakefield decided to add broken up pieces of chocolate to a new recipe she was testing out for her diners. Little did she know that 60s years later (1997) it would go on to be the designated state cookie of Massachusetts. What’s more, August 4th each year would be known as National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!
While some versions of the story describe the accidental addition of the chocolate, Wakefield clarified. “We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with (the) Toll House cookie.”
At the time, the cookie’s full name was Toll House Chocolate Cookie Crunch. She first published the recipe in her 1938 edition of Toll House Tried and True Recipes. In 1939, she sold this recipe and the exclusive rights for the cookie to Nestle. What did Wakefield sell it for? Apparently $1 and a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. While $1 is a bit low, it’s not so bad when you consider Nestle’s chocolate at the time. Since then, they’ve launched products such as Milkybars and Kitkats!
It did take a few years, but chocolate chip cookies started to go international. Eventually they made it across the pond to the UK in 1956, in the form of Maryland Cookies. But things took a more creative turn in the mid-80s when Vermont’s Ben & Jerry’s had the bright idea to add chocolate chip cookie dough to their ice cream. The idea came from an anonymous public suggestions board they had kept at the front of their shop in Burlington. It didn’t take long for their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavour to become their customers’ favourite. It actually kicked off the whole cookie dough in ice cream phenomenon, proving to be a further hit with ice cream fiends when packaged in pint-sized tubs for supermarkets!
Could the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream suggestion have come from a Wakefield relative holidaying from Massachusetts? Or perhaps it was an old Toll House Inn visitor now living in Vermont who had recently read about the fire that had burned down the entire establishment? While we will never know the answer to these questions, one thing is for sure: we’ll be forever grateful for Ruth Graves Wakefield’s inventions, and the anonymous ice cream flavour suggestion.