I don’t like it when people of import are forgotten by history.
William Dawes, for example, made the exact same ride as Paul Revere on that fateful night. Took the same risks and accomplished the same goal, but because William Wadsworth Longfellow failed to mention Dawes in his famous poem, Americans do not know his name.
I hate that.
This is why I’m also annoyed that Ruth Wakefield’s name is not known by every American from sea to shining sea.
Ruth Wakefield is the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie. Something that has brought joy to almost every American at some point in their life. Something that I thought had existed for all time was actually invented by a woman known for her baking and cooking skills.
Wakefield was brainstorming about cookie dough while on vacation in Egypt when she first came up with a new recipe, a variation on another popular treat called Butter Drop Do pecan icebox cookies.
Her original plan was to have involved melting squares of unsweetened chocolate and adding it to the blond batter. But the only chocolate she had available at the time was a Nestlé semisweet bar, and she was too rushed to melt it.
Wielding an ice pick, she chopped the bar into pea-size bits and dribbled them into the dough. Instead of melting into the dough to produce an all-chocolate cookie, the bits remained chunky as they baked.
Thus the chocolate chip cookie was born.
Wakefield and her husband owned a travelers inn Whitman, MA. That establishment, the Toll House Inn on Bedford Street (about a mile from where I once shared a bedroom with a goat) became a destination, famous for Wakefield’s recipes, which she eventually included in a cookbook, “Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes” that she published in 1931.
Her chocolate chip cookie recipe first appeared in a later 1930s edition of the book.
Her Toll House cookie recipe was later reprinted in The Boston Herald-Traveler, and Wakefield was featured on “Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places,” the radio program hosted by Marjorie Husted (who was known as Betty Crocker).
In 1939, Wakefield sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages for $1 and was hired to consult on recipes for the company, which was said to have provided her free chocolate for life.
Soon afterwards, the chocolate chip cookie recipe spread beyond the confines of Massachusetts, thanks in part to World War II soldiers sharing their cookies from care packages with fellow soldiers from around the country.
Today you would be hard pressed to find a single American who has not enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie at some point in their life.
I know it’s only a cookie, but when something interacts with so much of American culture in such a positive way, and we know the name of the American who invented the thing, we should make a better effort to celebrate her and her accomplishment.
Ruth Wakefield, inventor of the chocolate chip cookie: A true American hero.