By Jeanne  Lesinski

In 1930 Ken and Ruth Wakefield bought the old Smith house in Whitman, Massachusetts, some twenty miles from Boston. They hoped to make their dream come true. Ken, a former ship’s steward, and Ruth, a registered dietitian, wanted to own and operate a restaurant with colonial charm and tasty food.  Yet could they do it in the middle of the Great Depression, they wondered.

Ruth designed the menus and hostessed, while Ken oversaw the kitchen of their Toll House restaurant, named for the old customs tollbooth that had once stood across the street.

One day Ruth was in a hurry because she needed to whip up a batch of cookies for that afternoon. She was in the middle of making Butter Drop-Do cookies, a favorite recipe from colonial times, when she went to add chopped nuts and realized that she was out of them. Like everyone at the time, the Wakefields had to make do with less, so on the spur of the moment, she chopped up a Nestle chocolate bar and folded the pieces into the batter. Ruth expected the chips to melt and make a chocolate cookie. Instead, when she lifted the pan from the oven she was surprised to find the chips intact. The cookie, which she dubbed the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, was delicious.

An instant success, the Toll House cookie—and the restaurant where they were made—became famous throughout the country. During World War II, the cookie's fame spread even farther when the Wakefields sent Toll House cookies to servicemen overseas.

Ruth eventually tired of chopping chocolate to make the cookies, so she contacted the Nestle Company and suggested that it manufacture chocolate morsels especially for her recipe. The director agreed and the company published a copy of the recipe on the back of each bag, along with an image of the Toll House restaurant.

Although Ruth died in 1977 and the Toll House restaurant burned to the ground seven years later, her delectable cookies continue to excite the senses of young and old alike.

© Jeanne Lesinski, 2011