It’s another week and another time to celebrate one of our favorite foods here at the Guide. The U.S. has created plenty of foods, it’s fascinating to hear that people think we do not have quintessentially “American Food.” With so many different cultures and people groups living in the United States, I would think it would be impossible to not have some inspired some amazing American dishes. And as for the lack of flavor, those who think we do not like flavor in our food haven’t been paying attention. So when I came to a food holiday this week I found one food stood out. What could be better than to celebrate the development of one of the most famous desserts we have here in America. This week we celebrate National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.
Whether at home or out, who doesn’t instantly remember that moment when your mouth wrapped itself around the tender mixture of cookie dough and chocolate for the first time? It was like sweetness and a burst of chocolate exploded into your mouth, leaving you in pastry heaven. Some foods instantly make you smile just when you think about them. The chocolate chip cookie has to be one of those foods. Whether your mom baked them for you as a child, or you went to a cookie place and purchased them, chocolate chip cookies fill the imagination and light up the soul.
As for my experience with the chocolate chip cookie, it was probably one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood. And I suppose to understand that you have to understand that my mother couldn’t cook. Maybe that’s a bit of an untruth. She had her reasons for why she did certain things. And cooking was no different. Most of those things I didn’t realize until I was a grownup. But as a child, I felt like my mother’s cooking was her way of torturing us. When I finally did grow up, I realized there were two things to my mother’s cooking that seemed to make it suffer.
The first of those things was time. She barely felt like she had time for anything in life. She would get up, get breakfast for my brother and I (another dangerous proposition), make us sack lunches, get us packed and take us to school, go and get ready for work herself, go to work all day substituting, prepare dinner for us, get us off to bed, and prepare for her next day in class before she finally got to go to bed herself. So distractions for my mother came fast and furious. I cannot begin to count the amount of times she burnt something because she was turned away putting out some other fire in the house.
The second of those things is a bit more complicated to understand. How she cooked things made her cooking suffer. She liked to cook things thoroughly. This means she always liked all of her food well done. Nevermind that I was the kid who liked his steaks medium rare, and would end up loving sushi. You can cook food that’s well done and really tasty. But there is a fine line between well done and burnt. And when your day is a series of distractions, and you love your food well done, you can only guess how often things got burnt. I have a story about her burning water that someday I may share.
Despite her cooking foibles, she made one thing everyone universally loved. She called them her cowboy cookies. They were oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that sometimes had extra things like peanuts and butterscotch or peanut butter chips. And in a house with a ton of cooking catastrophes, these cookies represented a little bit of heaven.
What I would later realize is that aside from all of her other dishes, this was something she set aside lots of time for. Hours to be precise. I remember the time that I realized that her cooking was affected so incredibly by her time. Usually cooking was all a rush. But one day my mother took out all of the ingredients for these cookies and I asked her what she was doing. She said that it was going to take her hours to bake these cookies and so she set aside a block of time to make her cookies. She never took that kind of time for any other recipe. I realized the praise she received made it so she wanted to do a good job on them. And so she actually took the time to make sure she did them right. And she did it right every time.
So you can understand that when I think of the chocolate chip cookie, that represents a bit of culinary heaven here on earth, even if the recipe isn’t all that complicated. And while my mother screwed up all kinds of simple recipes, she never screwed up that one. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
As it is another food holiday celebrated here at the Guide, it is also time for another fake food history. The Guide prides itself on finding the 411 on the history behind these famous foods, or completely making them up, whichever comes easiest. As with all food histories, we sent out our staff to research the history behind this famous food. Because we couldn’t afford another trip with the “Wayback” time machine, we were going to have to resort to other chicanery. So this time we scoured the contents of the “deep web” to bring you all of the best fake food stuff. And without further ado, we bring you the fake history of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Fake History Of The Chocolate Chip Cookie
As we researched the history of the chocolate chip cookie, one thing became immediately evident, we were not going to have to “fill in the historical gaps.” The difficulty with writing any food history comes when you try to know precise persons behind or origins of a particular food. Frequently they have no clue who discovered a food let alone be able to tell you precisely where that food came from. Sometimes you have multiple people arguing over the food’s origins, as they do with the french fry. With the chocolate chip cookie, there really weren’t any gaps to fill in.
In the bowels of the Toll House Inn (I had no clue that one existed and just thought it was a fictitious place like Aunt Jemima is a fictitious person.) Ruth Graves Wakefield and Sue Brides created the delicious goodness we know as the chocolate chip cookie. They initially served it in their restaurant for a couple of years. And by 1938, they put it in the new edition of their recipe book. By the following year, they sold the rights to both the cookie and the Toll House name to Nestle for a buck. One. Measely. Buck. AND she claims they never paid her. (Although the fact that she was actually given free chocolate for the rest of her life, maybe you can give Nestle a pass. Maybe.)
But how they came to making the chocolate cookie is another story altogether. There apparently is plenty of revisionist history going on here, assuming that we know why someone would do something. We have created all kinds of fictitious reasons for why some person decided to add a chocolate chip instead of a butterscotch chip. As a nutritionist, Ruth must have known what would happen. They would never have used chips that way because of that reason. The truth is, no one really knows why they would do something unless they have a telepathic machine that can get brain waves from dead people. (The Guide has invested a whole 75 cents on that research and hope our mad scientist can get it to work any day now. We have faith Harry, our mad scientist, will get the job done.)
In as much as we do not know, the Guide has been able to discover three different versions of the tale of the Chocolate Chip Cookie. Versions seem to come in threes just like celebrity deaths and police cars. And so we will reveal what our research team has been able to put together.
Ruth and Sue were working hard in the kitchen when they discovered that they were out of the baking chocolate. Ruth had been intending baking chocolate cookies for her customers when Sue told her they were out. So she said and thought while munching a bag of chocolate chips. And then a light bulb went on in her mind. What if she added these chips to the cookie recipe? As they melted they could turn the whole cookie chocolate. So when she put them in the oven, she was heartily disappointed to find out that they did not melt and turn the cookie chocolate. She was about to throw the whole batch out when Sue convinced her to stick ice cream on it and they might never know. And so she did, and the rest is fake chocolate chip history.
It’s mostly a variant on version one, although this time she had run out of butterscotch chips for the cookies and decided she would use chocolate chips instead. (Or another version says she was replacing peanuts.) In this version, Ruth does not hope to turn the whole cookie chocolate. She just wants it to remain chips, and so it works out. Her only question was whether people would actually like chocolate chips in a cookie. She believed that the customers might not accept chocolate chips instead of butterscotch one. If this version were the correct version, I have only question for Ruth. What were you smoking? Not like chocolate more than butterscotch??? That’s crazy talk.
I have to admit that we at the Guide found this the most boring of all the versions. In this version, she actually intended for the cookie to turn out exactly the way she wanted it. This version says no bit of inspired madness occurred, but deliberate forethought about the cookie. Evidently, Ruth told someone she intended to make the cookie with chocolate chips because she decided she wanted to give her customers something different. She had been in Egypt and thought about how she wanted to change things up in her restaurant so this was what she came up with. (Is it me or does Egypt seem to inspire all kinds of crazy food inventions.)
While I cannot count out the fact that the third version maybe the correct version, the romantic food person in me wants to believe in version one. I think all food tends to come of out some kind of inspired madness. It’s not that people cannot create intentionally and forethought. But originally someone had to think of something and feel like combining different flavors would be a unique treat. And so I like my foods to have crazy histories.
Cowboy Chocolate Chip Cookies
With all food holidays, I love to leave you with something that you can take with you. And while I could try to give you a list of my five favorite chocolate chip cookie places, I don’t think some of my friend’s parents would appreciate you visiting their houses without any advanced notice. Seriously, the thing that makes chocolate chip cookies so amazing is that the best places to get them are at home, fresh out of the oven. I suppose that is true of almost anything. It’s almost always better at home. And especially with baking. Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread wafting throughout the house?
So I figured giving you the recipe for those cowboy cookies would be the best thing that I could do. What I will say is that despite giving you the recipe, there are so many different variants that you could go with. I am not sure that my mother ever made the exact same cookie two times in a row. The only thing I can say is that she never used rolled oats or coconut (as some recipes call for), and she always used oatmeal and chocolate chips. Other than that, feel free to experiment with the different additions. (Do not change the baking ingredients!!! It’s not a pretty sight.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts or pecans (You can do whole peanuts if you want)
Other variants (Peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts)
1) Preheat the oven to 350 F
2) Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment or a silicone mat.
3) Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
4) In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter with granulated and brown sugars until creamy.
5) Beat in vanilla and eggs until smooth.
6) Stir in the flour mixture, then stir in oats, chocolate chips, and peanuts or nuts.
7) Drop cookie dough by teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheet.
8) Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.
9) Store cookies in a tightly covered container or food storage bag.
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of the history of the chocolate chip cookie? How will you be celebrating chocolate chip cookie day? Did you know that the original way was to serve ice cream with it? Will you be putting ice cream with yours? Or would you prefer to go the cookie sandwich method? Gotta love a cookie sandwich right? (No a donut hamburger is not the same. Bleh!) Hope you find a way to celebrate the cookie day in style.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out some of my other food holiday posts. Also, don’t forget to follow me here at the Guide. All subscribers who follow via email will get access to the Dad Rules. These are ten rules that every dad should know about follow, or someone will be taking their chocolate chip cookies and go home. Just saying! Thanks for stopping by once again.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life