America has had a love affair with cookies in one form or another since its founding. In fact, the chocolate chip cookie would be right up there with apple pie and hot dogs as a contender for Official Food of the United States, if there were such a thing. Here's a little more about the cookie in America and chocolate chip cookies in particular.
Pilgrim housewives began baking as soon as they were settled here in the 1600's. Although they baked cookies, they were not known as such until the arrival of the Dutch immigrants who baked a delicacy called the "koekje." Like many foreign words, the spelling of koekje was soon anglicized to its current form: cookie!
The most popular early cookies were macaroons and gingerbread cookies. These were easily baked from the housewives' stores that they regularly kept in their pantries. It wasn't until the 1800's that cookies began to really vary beyond the basic. Women would begin with creaming butter and sugar together, then adding flour. This basic formula could be transformed into countless different recipes depending on what kinds of ingredients were at hand.
Of course, the butter/sugar/flour combination would later form the basis of the most popular of all American cookies: the chocolate chip cookie. It's hard to pin down the exact truth about the invention of the chocolate chip cookie: there are a number of different versions of the story floating about. However, everyone agrees that they were invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield of Whitman, Massachusetts, sometime around 1937.
Mrs. Wakefield and her husband owned and operated the Toll House Restaurant, which was located in a historic building that really was a toll house in colonial times. She was famous for her baking, and the stories and legends all agree on one point: that she discovered the chocolate chip cookie by accident.
Whether she added chopped chocolate to the dough herself or whether it accidentally dropped into is immaterial: the results were delicious! The cookie was nationally popularized by none other than Betty Crocker, who touted the virtues of this ooey gooey delight on her radio series. Ruth Wakefield later negotiated a deal with the Nestle corporation to have her recipe printed on their semi-sweet baking chocolate bars. Of course, later on the company would produce chocolate morsels themselves so that bakers would not have to cut their own.
Today, the chocolate chip cookie accounts for half of all the cookies baked in American homes. At least 5 billion of them are eaten every year, putting smiles on faces and joy in tummies all across the nation.
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