A History of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

“I rather do enjoy the taste of cookies, I find them quite divine.”

~Cookie Monster

cookie monster

We love chocolate chip cookies.  You love chocolate chip cookies.  The person right next to you in the heavy winter coat and fingerless gloves loves chocolate chip cookies so much they’re eating one right now, which, Jesus Christ, how did they get into your office?  How did security even let that happen?  What’s the point in having a keycard if any random vagrant can just sneak in to eat baked goods messily over your own keyboard?  Why do their gloves not have fingertips anyway, it does so much less to warm your fingers than regular gloves, they don’t need to use smart phones, and you’d have to imagine if anything fingerless gloves cost more than full ones?  Man, all this thinking has really worn you out, you’d better recharge with a chocolate chip cookie and a tall glass of milk.

Chocolate chip cookies, just like everything else that is delicious and makes life worth living, is an American invention, adding yet again to the list of dishes that are actually more American than apple pie.  And since you’re in the middle of a New-Year-resolution-shame diet while reading this, what better way to make you abandon your foolishness and intake a days’ worth of empty calories by emptying a Chips Ahoy! box than to show numerous pictures of deliciousness while regaling you with the storied history of an American treasure.  The chocolate chip cookie.

A History of the Chocolate Chip Cookie


Cookies have constantly been evolving, ever since sugar was introduced to the baking process by 7th century Persians who taught us that “sweetness” was a concept that existed, and was wonderful.  Of course, chocolate took another thousand years or so join the equation, but since Newton’s fifth law clearly states, “Chocolate makes everything better,” the two were soon wed.  As cookies came over to the colonies and became a national dessert of the young United States, it was just a matter of time before our love of chocolate cookies, our occasional stinginess, and our profound misunderstanding of chemistry would combine to create the perfect storm that is the chocolate chip cookie.

While many credit penicillin for being history’s greatest accident because of that whole “saving millions upon millions of lives” thing, chocolate chip cookies have to be a close second.  In 1930, Ruth Graves Wakefield owned the Whitman, Massachusetts restaurant the Toll House Inn.  According to Nestlé, on one fateful day, she was making chocolate cookies and, having run out of baker’s chocolate, swapped in broken up chunks of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate, thinking it would melt and mix into the batter.  When they didn’t, because we live in a society with rules and standard laws of physics, we were left with the chocolate chip cookie.  Wakefield sold the recipe for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips from Nestlé, who to this day still print Wakefield’s recipe on the back of every bag of their chocolate chips in North America.

look at all those damn cookies

Accounts of this momentous moment of creation differ, of course.  One time head chef of the Toll House Inn, George Boucher, acclaimed that the vibrations of a large electric mixer accidentally dropped bars of Nestlé chocolate stored on a shelf above the mixer, causing the chocolate to fall into the dough and break into small chunks during the mixing process.  Boucher then told Wakefield that they might as well finish baking the cookies instead of exerting the effort to pick out the individual bits of chocolate, which you might recognize as the same rationale utilized by people who dislike peas eating chicken pot pies.  This theory has credence, because it would make sense that Wakefield, an accomplished chef and cookbook author, would have a basic understanding of the baking properties of chocolate, and also because this way we can tell ourselves that the invention of chocolate chip cookies was divinely ordained, which makes more sense than “someone running out of bakers chocolate and a successful restaurateur didn’t know how chocolate works, this message brought to you by Nestlé, go buy Nestlé.”

No matter the origin, this beautiful accident soon took the nation by storm, because, as we’ve previously established, chocolate chip cookies are so good you wouldn’t quite gnaw your arm off to eat one, but you’d strongly consider it if you were hungry enough.  In 1936, Wakefield released her cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, and people couldn’t get enough of the “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie.”  Shortly thereafter, Americans were involved in a minor military exercise with half of the known world (we think it was called “world war one and a half or something”).  When soldiers from Massachusetts were sent care packages from back home, they often included chocolate chip cookies, because parents are intuitive and wonderful people that always know the perfect things to send to their children.  As these were passed around to soldiers from other parts of the United States, the previously regional chocolate chip cookie exploded into a national phenomenon.

nazis will die from your cookies

These cookies alone are responsible for the death of hundreds of Nazi soldiers

Today, the chocolate chip cookie reigns supreme, enslaving our taste buds and demanding that we consume no other sweetened good.  Actually, that’s not true at all, everyone loves cookies and there’s plenty of room for every variation imaginable.  We don’t know why we lied to you there, and we’re sorry.  But we’re not sorry for making you crave chocolate chip cookies as much as you do right now.  That feeling is natural, and you should embrace it.

Yes.  Eat the chocolate chip cookies.  Eat all of them.  Leave no prisoners behind.


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