Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes is a fairly recent addition to my vintage cookbook collection. I have the 1941 edition. I used an included menu as this month’s First Monday Menu. After researching a bit, I thought the cookbook and its author deserved its own post.
Ruth Graves Wakefield (1903-1977) was an American chef, educator, and author. She began her career in 1924 at Brockton High School as a home economics teacher. She lectured about food and was a hospital dietitian. She also had experience as a customer service director for a utility company. In 1930, she and her husband purchased the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. It was a historic location where travelers had once paid a toll, rested, changed horses, and had a meal before getting on their way. The Wakefields purchased the Inn and opened a restaurant there. She used family recipes and created new ones that became very popular. She invented chocolate chip cookies around 1938 and they became a popular staple.
Her chocolate chips were actually cut up pieces of Nestlé semi-sweet bars. She was deliberately trying to create a new kind of cookie for her customers. In 1930, she wrote the above-mentioned cookbook and began including her chocolate chip cookie recipe in the 1938 edition. Of course, I really want to try this recipe. I’m a big fan of chocolate chip cookies and would love to use the very first recipe. The recipe is called the “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie” in the cookbook.
The cookie recipe was featured in the Boston Herald and in a radio program hosted by “Betty Crocker”.
Another fun link to this era is that the spread of the cookies began when WWII soldiers from Massachusetts would get care packages with Mrs. Wakefield’s cookies and would share them with their fellow soldiers. This resulted in nationwide requests for cookies and spread the word about the chocolately cookies coming out of the Toll House Inn.
Since the recipe called for Nestlé bars, Nestlé saw their chocolate bar sales go up. In 1939, Ruth Wakefield and Nestlé came to an agreement that they would print the cookie recipe on the chocolate wrappers. She let them use the Toll House name and recipe in exchange for one dollar and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Nestlé soon began making chips made just for cookies. I have some bars of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate and the recipe is no longer printed on the wrapper. I’ll have to check to see if it is on the semi-sweet chip packaging.
I have the 1941 version of the cookbook. The book includes meal planning tips in addition to suggested menus for different occasions. There are instructions for canning and entertaining tips. Other sections helped the home front housewife with her laundry problems and gave first aid instructions. There is also advice on maintaining the kitchen and its appliances, as well as directions on proper table setting and service. I love that there are so many topics addressed in the book and I think it gives us a nice glimpse into the home front housewife’s daily life or at least some of the expectations of what it meant to be an ideal housewife in the early 1940s.
Many of the recipes in the book do not have an ingredient list followed by instructions for making the recipe. You have to read the recipe carefully to make sure you know the ingredients and the correct amount of each. I have found that to be frustrating because it’s very easy to miss something. A few times, there is just an ingredient listed and no amount. When I use these recipes on my blog, I’ll do my best to come up with ingredient lists for you to follow.
I do love this cookbook. Watch for the original Toll House cookie recipe taste test in a day or so. I also have other cookbooks that I will showcase in the coming weeks. They are more like household manuals than cookbooks, and I find that a wonderful way to look into the past.