About the Holiday
Is there anything better than biting into a warm, ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie? Today’s holiday celebrates this favorite treat and the history behind it. Enjoy the day by baking a batch with your kids. Not only is it a wonderful way for families to spend time together, but kids can learn family stories, the fun of helping out in the kitchen, and even math skills. So, grab your recipes, ingredients, and utensils and bake up a batches of scrumptious cookies!
How the Cooke Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie
By Gilbert Ford
As you’re gobbling down delicious chocolate chip cookies, do you ever wonder who invented them or how they came to be such favorites? Well, the “who” part is easy: chocolate chip cookies were the brainchild of Ruth Wakefield. But the “how” is a bit more tricky. Here are the three popular stories surrounding this yummy treat—which do you think is right?
Ruth was a born baker. She loved helping her grandmother out in the kitchen as soon as she “was old enough to hold a spoon.” Ruth had a special feeling about cooking—to her “cooking was a science, and the kitchen was her lab.” When Ruth graduated from high school, she went to college to study nutrition. With her degree in hand, Ruth taught cooking in a high school. But while “she enjoyed leading her classes, she hungered for something more.”
Ruth met and married Kenneth Wakefield, who also “shared her passion for cooking.” Together, they planned to open their own restaurant. Four years later, even though the economy was in depression and they had a young son, Ruth and Kenneth bought an old tollhouse in Whitman, Massachusetts. They fixed it up and named their restaurant the Toll House Inn.
Ruth did “most of the cooking herself while Kenneth ordered food and helped out in the kitchen.” Ruth was very particular about how the Toll House Inn was run, even measuring “the distance between the fork and the plate for accuracy. Hungry diners began visiting the Toll House Inn, leaving satisfied and ready to return.
So how did chocolate chip cookies come to be? Here are the three popular theories: “The Disaster”—One story says that while Ruth was “whipping up a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies,” her mixer, spinning at top speed, “knocked a Nestlé chocolate bar off the shelf” and right into the dough. “What a disaster!” The grill man thought Ruth should bake them anyway, and when the cookies were done, Ruth “discovered pure heaven.”
“The Substitute”—Having forgotten to order baking chocolate, Ruth chopped up a Nestlé chocolate bar and added it to the dough, thinking that it would melt evenly in the oven. “But when she pulled the cookies from the oven, boy, was she wrong. ‘They’re ruined!’ she cried.” But some waitresses and kitchen workers tried them and found them to be delicious. When Ruth tried them herself, she agreed.
“The Mastermind”—Inspiration struck Ruth while returning from a trip to Egypt. Back in the kitchen, “she deliberately took an ice pick to that chocolate bar” and “dropped the chunks into the mix.” The baked cookies were “exactly how she imagined it. She “took a bite and savored the warm, gooey chocolate as it melted right in her mouth.”
“So, which version do you believe?”
The Disaster seems a little random, and the Substitute is “a little hard to swallow,” considering Ruth’s vast knowledge of cooking and ingredients. That leaves the Mastermind. Ruth was well-known for her ability to create delectable desserts and for searching out new recipes. It seems that “Ruth deserves some credit. She was one smart cookie!”
So with new cookies on the menu, Ruth began serving them to her customers. Everyone loved them and word spread about her “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.” People came from far away to try them. So many people, in fact, that Ruth had to expand her restaurant. You might think that Ruth kept her recipe a secret, but instead, she shared it with anyone who asked! She even let it be printed in the newspaper. Soon, people throughout Boston were baking Ruth’s cookies.
When Ruth was interviewed on the Betty Crocker radio show, her recipe spread across the country. Seeing an unusual increase in sales of Nestle chocolate bars, the managers set out to find the cause. Soon they showed up at Ruth’s door begging for her recipe. “She gave it to them, and Nestlé began to produce chocolate chips designed specifically for Ruth’s cookies.” In payment, it’s said “she was awarded a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate!”
By the 1940s Ruth’s recipe appeared on every bag of Nestlé chocolate chips. From then on, Ruth’s cookies became a favorite of adults and kids alike!
An Author’s Note relating more about Ruth Wakefield and her famous cookies, as well as her classic recipe follow the text.
Gilbert Ford presents this sweet story with all the intrigue that has grown up around the invention of the chocolate chip cookie while giving Ruth Wakefield her proper due for her cleverness in the kitchen. Ford’s conversational style invites kids to participate in the story—a nice touch considering that the chocolate chip cookie is a perennial favorite with children. Relating the three separate theories gives readers an opportunity to think about the nature of invention. Including the facts about Ruth’s generosity with her recipe show readers that sharing ideas can be beneficial and could even prompt discussions about different ways to handle proprietary information.
In keeping with his light tone, Ford’s illustrations combine realistic and whimsical elements. The three theories are presented in more comic-book style, while the rest of the story portrays the historical time period, Ruth and Kenneth’s growing restaurant, and, of course, the star of the plate—the chocolate chip cookie.
For kids who love cooking and baking, history, and biographies as well as for its value in initiating discussion and even projects, How the Cookie Crumbled would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 8
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481450676
Discover more about Gilbert Ford, his books, and his art on his website.
National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day Activity
Catch the Cookie! Maze
You can find How The Cookie Crumbled at these booksellers
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