“You will always leave something behind. Your influence.” —Amish proverb
My grandmother, Marion Woods, was a bundle of high energy. After her five children were raised, she decided to start a tearoom on the sun porch of her large country home called Eagle Hill, on Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts. When my dad brought his future bride home to meet the family, my grandmother handed her a knife and a bowl of tomatoes and told her to start slicing. After all, the tearoom was booked with lunch reservations and Marion needed extra hands. My mother, who came from an oh-so-proper home, was appalled. My grandmother didn’t even blink.
The tearoom was so well received that my grandmother decided to expand Eagle Hill and build cottages that surrounded the lake. She planned to rent out the cottages to vacationing families during the warmer months. In a rare moment of reflection, she decided to first visit with her friend, Ruke Wakefield, who ran the nearby Toll House Inn, also in Plymouth County, to glean some tips about inn keeping.
The name of Ruth Wakefield may not be familiar to you, but I can guarantee you have benefited from her influence in the kitchen. Ruth had a delicious family cookie recipe, Butter Drop Cookies, with melted chocolate stirred into the cookie batter. One day, Ruth was out of baker’s chocolate so she substituted broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate, expecting the chocolate to melt and absorb into the dough. (I’d like to think that might have been the very day my grandmother paid a call, but I think that’s just the fiction writer in me.) Ruth chopped up the semi-sweet chocolate and tossed the diced pieces into the batter instead of melting them first. When she removed the pan from the oven, Ruth was surprised to discover the chocolate pieces hadn’t melted but were intact, soft and creamy. Accidentally, she had invented the world’s first “chocolate chip cookie.”
At the time, Ruth called her creation “Toll House Crunch Cookies.” As the popularity of Toll House Crunch Cookies increased, sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also spiked. Soon, Nestle started to sell chocolate chips as a product. Nestle and Ruth Wakefield came up with an agreement: Nestle would print the “Toll House Cookie” recipe on its package and Ruth would be given a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. The Toll House Cookie is still the most popular cookie in America. Talk about a woman’s influence!
Back to the meeting between my grandmother and Ruth Wakefield. My grandmother left Ruth filled with encouragement and enthusiasm and ideas about how to expand Eagle Hill as an inn, which she promptly did. The 17 acre farm transitioned into a delightful, sought after destination. Fifty years later, I wrote a three-book series, starting with The Letters, about a strong, determined woman who started an inn called Eagle Hill.
My grandmother passed away when I was very young, but her “can do” influence remained. It’s encouraging to realize your example as a parent or grandparent goes deep into your children’s development. Such awareness is a motivation, too, to be our best self at all times. Be it cookies or innkeeping, you have a lasting impact on the next generation.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction, and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. The Search won a 2012 Carol Award. The Waiting was a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. The Choice was a finalist for a 2011 Carol Award. The Letters is a finalist for a Christian Retailing 2014 Best Award. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011). Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research.
Suzanne’s latest release, The Quieting, is now available!