The Chocolate Chip Cookie is Turning 75-Years-Old
It seems all the best (sugary) foods come from Massachusetts.
As Somerville gets ready to celebrate the invention of Fluff, which was created more than 90 years ago in Union Square, something similar is cooking on the South Shore.
In October, residents of Whitman will tip their hats to the chocolate chip cookie on the 75th anniversary of its creation. Yes, you read that right; the chocolate chip cookie was a concoction straight out of the Commonwealth.
Cookie-lovers around the country can thank Ruth Graves Wakefield for that one.
Around 1938, Wakefield, who owned the Toll House restaurant in Whitman, with her husband, was making a special type of “drop cookie” for her guests when she decided she wanted to try something different. When she realized she was out of the traditional baker’s chocolate she needed for her recipe, as an alternative, Wakefield chipped away at a block of semi-sweet Nestlé chocolate and dribbled the bits into the cookie dough. And thus, the chocolate chip cookie was born. “There was nothing like this before. It became extremely popular quite quickly,” said Carolyn Wyman, author of The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book, which delves into the cookie’s historic place in the state, and debunks myths about how the treat came to be.
A quick Google search will bring up various tales about how the cookie got its start, like stories claiming Wakefield “accidentally” created the dessert. But based on interviews with Wakefield’s own daughter, and former employees of the Toll House restaurant, Wyman sheds light on the rumors that have long circulated on the Internet. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. I think in a way, the wrong story is more fun for people and more interesting. Nowadays, people love the ‘dumb luck’ story of the person who wins the lottery, or invents something because they were doing something else,” said Wyman. “But what she did was still revolutionary.”
While the “accidental cookie” claims are unsupported, the bit about Wakefiled using Nestlé chocolate for her cookies—which lead to a deal between her and the manufacturer—is very much a reality.
Wyman said that after the recipe was published and handed out to people, with the Nestlé name as a main ingredient, sales of the candy bar skyrocketed, and the company sent a salesman out to find Wakefield so they could get exclusive rights to the original recipe. Wyman said to this day, no one—not even Wakefield’s daughter—will talk about what the agreement entailed, but regardless of the monetary transaction, Wakefield’s name is synonymous with the cookie creation. “She made a lot of other great desserts,” said Wyman, adding that Wakfield went to Framingham State—which at the time was called the Framingham State Normal School— to achieve her degree from the Department of Household Arts.
Wyman will be speaking at the cookie’s hometown of Whitman on October 19, during the 75th annual celebration of its coming-to-be. She will appear alongside Marguerite Gaquin, who is the daughter of Toll House baker Sue Brides; Carol Cavanagh, a former waitress and daughter of Toll House chef George Boucher, and a few others. Wyman tapped into the cookie-bakers to help write her book, which is billed as the first-of-its-kind in terms of cooking up the truth about the baked good. The event will also feature a bake-off and a book signing.