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History of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

April 27, 2010

The chocolate chip cookie perfectly embodies every great success story because it was never meant to happen. The cookie’s inventor, Ruth Wakefield, owned and operated the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. The restaurant was popular not so much for its entrees or desserts as for their policy of sending diners home with an extra helping of their entrees and Ruth’s baked goods “for the road.” Ruth was fond of baking chocolate cookies to send home with diners. One day she ran out of the baking chocolate she needed for her recipe. So, she hunted around and found a Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bar in her cupboard. She reasoned that if she broke up the bar and added it to her basic batter, the chocolate would melt and mix with the other ingredients to produce the chocolate cookies that were so popular with her guests.

Much to our continued delight decades later, Ruth was wrong, and the chocolate chip cookie was born that day in 1933. In 1936, Ruth published a recipe book, “Toll House Tried and True Recipes.” The cookbook included her soon-to-be-famous recipe for the “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie”. The cookie recipe caught on with a wider audience, and the enterprising Ruth offered the recipe to Nestle. Her asking price was a lifetime’s supply of chocolate chips, and Nestle took her up on the deal.

Nestle began printing the recipe on the back of every bag of chocolate chips. The cookies became a popular addition to care packages sent to soldiers stationed overseas during the holiday season. Soon other soldiers were writing home requesting that chocolate chip cookies be included in their care packages as well. The Toll House Inn was flooded with orders, and this launched Ruth’s chocolate chip cookie into the spotlight it still enjoys today. While the original chocolate chip cookie was associated with the “Nestle” brand, other chocolate chip manufacturers soon began including their own version of the recipe on their bags. Additionally, the recipe began to find its way into cookbooks. The cookie’s popularity caught the attention of enterprising business-minded individuals, who began to franchise retail locations dedicated to offering customers the anytime-anywhere cookie experience.

Today there are as many recipe variations of the original Toll House chocolate chip cookie as there are cookie gourmands ready to pounce on a new, fresh, hot cookie idea. Capitalizing on Ruth’s original concept, certain franchise chains have attempted to secure their customer’s loyalty by offering free cookies in exchange for their patronage. In 1997, Massachusetts acceded to the requests of an enthusiastic third-grade class and named the chocolate chip cookie the “Official State Cookie of Massachusetts.” forever securing its place as an American tableside institution.

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