There have been many inventions that were discovered by accident, but none was sweeter than the Chocolate Chip Cookie. My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg loved to make cookies, and she knew that I was partial to her chocolate chip cookies, but she didn’t invent them. We have to thank Ruth Graves Wakefield for that. It was one of apparently several “mistakes” Ruth made in the kitchen. We’ve all been there, but this mistake was not disastrous.

Ruth and her husband, Kenneth owned Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth prepared the recipes and cooked for the inn’s guests. One day in 1930, she had a problem. She was out of baker’s chocolate for her scrumptious Butter Drop Do cookies. She knew that her guests always looked forward to those cookies and would be upset if she didn’t have any. She gave the matter some thought, and decided that she could just break up a bar of Nestle’s semisweet chocolate into tiny chunks and mixed them into the batter. She assumed that the chocolate would melt, spread into the dough as it baked, and create a chocolate-flavored cookie. Unfortunately, chocolate is a little be more resilient than that. The chunks melted…to a degree, but pretty much held their position in the cookie dough. When she took the cookies out of the oven, she noticed that the chocolate chunks only melted slightly, holding their shape and forming a creamy texture. It was too late to do anything else, so she served the cookies to her guests, who absolutely loved them.

Ruth’s chocolate chip cookies began attracting people from all over New England. After her recipe appeared in a Boston newspaper, Nestle gained a huge spike in sales. Everyone wanted Nestle’s semisweet chocolate bars to make Ruth Wakefield’s cookies. Andrew Nestle came up with a great marketing idea that would be beneficial for both of them. Nestle agreed to give Wakefield a lifetime supply of the chocolate in return for her recipe printed on every Nestle semisweet chocolate bar. Later, of course, they printed it on the bags of chocolate chips, because who wants to break up all that chocolate, when it could be done for you and placed in a bag. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t had chocolate chip cookies in their lifetime, and we can all thank Ruth Wakefield and her cookie mistake for that scrumptious treat.

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