There are few things in life more pleasurable than entering a kitchen suffused with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, that mouth-watering prospect of warm, sweet, chocolaty dough lingering a moment on the tongue before it’s washed down with a sip from a tall glass of cold milk.  Even the heartiest dieter, that person so admirably committed to avoiding unnecessary carbs, would be hard-pressed to stay his or her hand when presented with a plateful of cookies.

But make no mistake, cookies aren’t just delicious, they’re big business; just ask Debbi Fields.  Or the local bakery offering fresh-baked snickerdoodles.  Or the burger joint serving up a skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie à la mode.  Cookies sell, and for good reason.  As noted by world-famous chef Thomas Keller, in the introduction to his chocolate-chip cookie recipe in his “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook, “There’s a comfort in things that are with us all our lives.”

So whether an integral offering at a popular sweets franchise, a fun dessert at a casual eatery or part of an eclectic dessert plate at an exclusive restaurant, cookies always seem to please.

Which is why we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge National Cookie Day with some interesting facts about the tasty treat compiled by Linda Stradley of the website What’s Cooking America:

  • In America, a cookie is described as a thin, sweet, usually small cake.  By definition, a cookie can be any of a variety of hand-held, flour-based sweet cakes, either crisp or soft.
  • Each country has its own word for cookie.  What we know as cookies in America are called “biscuits” in England and Australia, “galletas” in Spain, “keks” or “Plätzchen” (Christmas cookies) in Germany and “amaretti” or “biscotti” (among others) in Italy.
  • The name “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “koekje,” meaning “small or little cake.”  The word “biscuit” comes from the Latin “bis coctum,” which means “twice-baked.”
  • The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th century Persia (now Iran), one of the first countries to cultivate sugar (luxurious cakes and pastries in large and small versions were well known in the Persian empire).
  • By the end of the 14th century, one could buy little filled wafers on the streets of Paris. Renaissance cookbooks were rich in cookie recipes.
  • The English, Scotch, and Dutch immigrants originally brought the first cookies to the United States.  Our simple butter cookies strongly resemble the English teacakes and the Scotch shortbread.  The Southern colonial housewife of America took great pride in her cookies, almost always called simply “teacakes.”  These were often flavored with nothing more than the finest butter, sometimes with the addition of a few drops of rose water.
  • Nabisco’s popular brand of animal-shaped cookies, known as “Barnum's Animals Crackers” since 1948, feature a distinctive box that was first introduced in 1902 for the Christmas season and featured a string to hang the packaging from the Christmas tree.  Each box contains 22 cookies.  The number and variety of animals represented in cookie form has varied over the years—since 1902 there have been 54 different animals, the most recent addition, the koala, added in September 2002.
  • The first chocolate chip cookies were invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield of Whitman, Massachusetts, who ran the Toll House Restaurant.  One of Ruth's favorite recipes was for “Butter Drop Do” cookies, which dated back to colonial times.  Although the recipe called for the use of baker's chocolate, one day Ruth found herself without this key ingredient and instead used semi-sweet chocolate that she’d chopped into pieces.  Assuming the chocolate would melt and spread throughout each cookie she was surprised to find that the chunks held their shape.  She called her new creation the “Toll House Crunch Cookies” and quickly they created a sensation.  Soon her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area.  Then, in 1939, Betty Crocker used the recipe in her radio series on “Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places.”  The Nestle Company soon came calling and an agreement was reached that allowed Nestle to print what would become the Toll House Cookie recipe on the wrapper of their Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar.  Ruth eventually sold all legal rights to the use of the Toll House trademark to Nestle.  Decades later, on August 25, 1983, the Nestle Company lost its exclusive right to the trademark in federal court.  Toll House is now a descriptive term for a cookie.