Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies' Story Is Rich In History (And Flavor)

It's the kind of story that first sounds like a fairytale. "Once upon a time, back in 1938 at the Whitman, Massachusetts Toll House restaurant, the chocolate chip cookie was invented." That much of the story is true. By contrast, most of the fantastical details that have since spread are not.

Those details claim celebrated entrepreneur and restaurateur Ruth Wakefield neglected to buy enough nuts to make a cookie that her wildly popular restaurant, the Toll House, served alongside ice cream. So the story goes, she chopped up a nearby Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate bar for a substitute crunch, and voilà! A new cookie for the masses was born (via Slate).

In reality, Wakefield was a skilled businesswoman and a warm, dynamic host to the thousands of customers who came to her and her husband's famous Toll House restaurant. Her place settings were one thumbprint away from the edge of the table, and she kept a restaurant afloat during the height of the Great Depression — this wasn't a woman who forgot an order for nuts. So, how did she actually invent the chocolate chip cookie? According to the book "The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie," a trip to Europe jogged Wakefield's memories of her college food chemistry class, and in hopes of giving new life to her crisp pecan icebox cookies, she decided to run cookie experiments with her pastry chef using un-melted chocolate chunks.

Nestlé struck up a deal with the cookie's inventor, Ruth Wakefield

This more grounded theory for the mysterious origin of chocolate chip cookies carries weight since there is a Nut Tea Wafer recipe in Wakefield's first-edition cookbook that closely lines up with her subsequent Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Wakefield called that cookie the Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookie, and it was soon beloved by her restaurant customers and peers alike.

As a result, Nestlé executives saw a spike in semi-sweet chocolate bar sales, thanks in part to the fictional character Betty Crocker talking about the new Toll House chocolate chip cookie on her radio show. The company decided to strike up a deal with Wakefield; this deal gave Nestlé the right to publish her recipe on their chocolate bars, which they sold with a little tool to "chip" off chunks of chocolate.

Shortly afterward, Nestlé began producing its chocolate pre-"chipped" into morsels. Nestlé named these treats Toll House morsels in honor of Wakefield's restaurant and allegedly paid her $1, free chocolate for life, and a recipe consulting gig with the company (via America Comes Alive).