A chocolate candy bar cannonballing into a possessed mixer. Baking chocolate suddenly going AWOL. These are just a couple of the persistent myths orbiting the origins of America’s quintessential dessert: the chocolate chip cookie.
Thanks to Ford’s kid-friendly exposé, Ruth Wakefield’s smarts and business savvy are revealed to be the true sources of the cookie’s invention. Not only was Wakefield the chef for the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, she also managed the restaurant. Daring to start a business with her husband just as the Great Depression hit, Wakefield’s dedication to quality paid off. In 1938, wanting to change up her popular butterscotch cookie, Wakefield added bits of a Nestle’s chocolate bar to the dough and—voilà! From kitchens across the country to the care packages sent to homesick World War II soldiers, the chocolate chip cookie was soon everywhere. In fact, Nestle created the chocolate chip specifically for Wakefield’s recipe. Ford’s illustrations successfully evoke the 1930s and ’40s, down to the comic-strip half-tone dot effect of the different cookie-genesis scenarios. However, Ford misses the opportunity to depict among the diners the famous personages mentioned in his author’s note, and his pictorial rendition of the cookie queen is strangely unsympathetic—staff grimace behind her back as she critically frowns at their work.
Quibbles aside, pastry chefs in the making will be fascinated by this accessible tribute to a true American icon and will be tempted to try the appended cookie recipe. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)