The Last-Minute Switch That Led To The Creation Of Chocolate Chips

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old adage says, and that appears to have been the case with the chocolate chip cookie and the woman credited with inventing it, Ruth Wakefield, per The New York Times

In a special obituary titled "Overlooked No More," Wakefield, who owned the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, was reportedly thinking about giving guests an alternative to the inn's popular offer. In an interview in the 1970s, Wakefield said: "We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different."

"Different" reportedly came in the form of melting Baker's chocolate and then adding that to the cookie batter. However, since she only had a whole bar of Nestlé semisweet chocolate to work with, she decided to break the bar into smaller pieces with an ice pick. Instead of having the chocolate melt into the blonde cookie batter, the chocolate pieces stayed chunky, and the "Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie," or what we know as the chocolate chip cookie, was born.

The cookie's purported origin story was later questioned

The narrative might sound romantic, but it has been disputed by food writer Carolyn Wyman. In her book "Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book," Wyman claims that Ruth Wakefield doesn't sound like the kind of person who might run out of an ingredient, especially since she was running a busy catering kitchen. Rather, as The New Yorker says, quoting the book, Wakefield would have created the now-iconic cookie "by dint of training, talent, [and] hard work." 

The cookie became popular partly because it was featured in the 1938 edition of Wakefield's cookbook, "Tried and True," per The New Yorker. But it also scored a mention on a radio show hosted by home economist Marjorie Child Husted, the real-life inspiration for the icon we know as Betty Crocker, says The New York Times. And while she might not have invented America's favorite cookie by grabbing a Nestlé semisweet bar at the last minute, she did strike a deal that would provide her with a lifetime supply of chocolate morsels if the food conglomerate was allowed to print her recipe on the back of every chocolate bar. The arrangement also had Wakefield receiving $1, though that never happened in the end.

As for the "Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie," it was renamed in 1941, when the sweet treat became known as the chocolate chip cookie.