animation of cookies being removed from a plate

For Generations of Alums, ‘Straight Cookies’ Were a Beloved Treat

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The iconic, chocolatey comestibles are no longer a fixture on the Hill—but we have a recipe so you can make them at home!

By Joe Wilensky & Beth Saulnier

For Risa Mensch Garon ’69 and her husband, Howie Garon ’69, the chocolate-chip cookies at Willard Straight Hall were the recipe for a lifetime of love. The couple met in the Ivy Room at the beginning of their sophomore year, introduced by a friend. Chatting over the legendarily tasty cookies, they hit it off.

“I had a boyfriend at the time, and Howie had a girlfriend,” Risa recalls. “That ended fast.”

Married the summer after graduation, they’ve been followed on the Hill by two Cornellian children (and a grandchild who’s a current student).

And in summer 2019, Risa surprised Howie with a 50th anniversary trip to campus—complete with a visit to the Straight, where a dining manager provided a fresh batch of the famed cookies, which haven’t been widely available in decades.

Risa and Howie Garon on campus in 1966
The Garons on campus in 1966. (Provided)

“A lot of couples take trips around the world, and that is all very lovely,” Risa observes. “But I wanted something to memorialize when we met, and the meaning of our relationship.”

Both Risa and Howie attribute their wedded bliss, in large part, to that first meeting over the famed cookies and to similar Ivy Room dates thereafter.

The couple is among the many Cornellians who have fond memories of the rich, chocolatey, often-still-warm treats—a Straight mainstay for many years.

Risa and Howie Ganon at Willard Straight Hall with cookies to mark their 50th wedding anniversary
Anniversary cookies in the Ivy Room. (Mark H. Anbinder)

While beloved to 1960s-era alums like the Garons, the cookies gained even wider Big Red fame in the 1970s and ’80s.

Back then—served fresh along with milk or coffee—they were the centerpiece of snack-laden respites known as “Straight Breaks,” held in the late evening.

The tradition of the cookies—typically sold for 25 cents apiece—seems to have ended sometime in the 1990s, dining officials say, shortly before baking functions moved from the Straight into the new Appel Commons in the early 2000s.

(In 2017, the Class of 1987 even made a special request to bring the recipe out of retirement for its 30th Reunion, says senior dining manager Troy Buchanan, who resurrected the cookies both for that event and for the Garons’ anniversary.)

So what’s a Straight Cookie fan to do? The good news is that the treats are easily baked at home.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the cookies were the centerpiece of snack-laden respites known as “Straight Breaks,” held in the late evening.

The basic ingredients and process are familiar to anyone who has made the classic Toll House recipe, with a notable addition: a hefty portion of cocoa powder.

But as to an “official,” historically accurate recipe: it’s complicated.

For one thing, in their early days the cookies reportedly contained lard—now a no-no for a number of reasons, including the need to be inclusive of a broader range of diets.

A Google search reveals two versions of the recipe: one posted in 2021 as part of the online Cornell Family Cookbook, another from “Dear Uncle Ezra” (once a popular Big Red advice-and-info column) originally published in 1998.

A batch of the famous Willard Straight cookies on a plate
Straight Cookies may have vanished from their namesake, but you can make them at home! (Lindsay France / Cornell University)

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Both have the imprimatur of having been provided by Cornell Dining staff—but they’re not the same.

Never mind the fact that the Uncle Ezra one makes a gigantic quantity, with the recipe including 10 cups of flour and nearly a dozen eggs.

Even when that’s scaled down, though, the ingredient ratios don’t precisely match up—plus, only the Ezra one (which notes that the recipe has changed over the years) contains powdered milk.

So we sallied forth to the Cornellians test kitchen—whence we produced our versions of the recipes for Cornell Bread and Cornell Chicken—and came up with a household-sized batch that splits the difference (see below), with thumbs-up from our in-house tasters.

The re-created recipe in the mixing bowl
The cocoa powder gives the dough a deep chocolate color. (Beth Saulnier / Cornell University)

(While both online versions call for margarine, we’re including butter as an option, since many home bakers prefer it.)

Regardless of the particulars, the fact remains that—like Proust’s madeleine—Straight Cookies trigger vivid and delectable memories for generations of Cornellians.

They include Vivian Cok Harmeyer ’80, an Arts & Sciences alum who lived in a West Campus U-Hall her freshman year—enabling myriad late-night forays to the Straight.

“It was always a sweet, delightful experience to take that first big bite; the chips were like warm chocolate syrup and barely retained their shape inside the cookie,” she recalls. “It’s amazing that, more than 45 years later, I can still imagine that wonderful treat.”

‘Straight Cookies’

Prefer to print? Here’s a downloadable PDF!

🍪 ‘Straight Cookies’ Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen.


1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine

1 c. granulated sugar

¾ c. light brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 large eggs

2½ c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

⅓ c. cocoa powder

¼ c. powdered milk

1½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 °F. Cream together butter or margarine, sugars, and salt. Add vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, mixing between each. Scrape down bowl.

A dozen of the cookies ready to be baked at the Cornellians test kitchen
Dough going into the oven in the Cornellians test kitchen. (Beth Saulnier / Cornell University)

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cocoa, and powdered milk. Add dry ingredients to wet and combine thoroughly, then mix in chocolate chips.

Drop batter onto cookie sheets by generous spoonfuls and bake for 12 minutes; cookies should still be soft. Allow to cool before transferring.

Top: Video by Cornell University.

Published September 12, 2023

Do you have fond memories of Straight Cookies?


  1. Judith Ruchlis Eisenberg, Class of 1969

    I was the mutual friend that introduced the Garons. I’m so happy for them! I, too met my husband at Cornell, Herbert Eisenberg, a graduate student in electrical engineering. We also met in the Straight because we were taking a photography class together and used the dark room there. My husband signed up to use the room right after me and the rest is history. Our daughter graduated in 1998 so we are truly a Cornell family.

  2. Pam Hanna, Class of 1975

    Oh yum! Thanks for this memory! I will definitely be making that recipe. AND thanks too for the memories of the “Straight Break” ritual. At 9 pm we all left the libraries (mostly Uris Libe for all undergrads then) to head to the Straight Ivy Room for coffee & a cookie, and to see friends.
    Very sorry that’s not a “thing” anymore, I guess. Our son (class of 2016) didn’t get to do it. Students can work just about everywhere now. That’s a good thing, I guess …….

  3. Heidi Ford, Class of 1987

    The new recipe is not the same as the old one. The originally cookies were flat. Believe me, I know. I ate an embarrassingly large quantity of them while an undergraduate.

    • Shelley Winkler, Class of 1976

      True! The original cookies were large and flat! Loved them so much. How delightful it was to have something wonderful to lighten an evening of academic work. Maybe some other treat could be offered around study centers now? And a little jolting to hear they may have had lard as I ate no pork products, or so I thought!

      • Martha Donovan, Class of 1963

        The original recipe for toll house cookies, printed on the bag of Nestles morsels, called for Crisco, not lard. When that changed to butter I tried it but did not like. I still use Crisco when I make them, and they are totally delicious. So perhaps you were not eating pork.

    • Rick Curreri, Class of 1973

      Definitely large and flat. I remember having to break them in half in order to dunk them in my coffee or hot chocolate.

    • Linda Gilbert Steele, Class of 1974

      I agree! They were huge! My work study job was in the Straight kitchen as a professional cake and pie cutter but I also had a turn at making those large, flat and normal (not cocoa powdered) cookies. They were warm and amazing! I graduated in 1974 and never saw a little brown one.
      I also fondly remember the wonderful Straight Kitchen Ladies who laughed at me when I didn’t know how to cut a watermelon! They taught me a lot and were an important part of my education too. ❤️

  4. Vasiliki (Kiki) Angelopoulos Volkwein, Class of 1964

    My husband, James F Volkwein ’62 and ’68, and I also met at Cornell in grad school at a reception in Sage Hall. We returned in 2022 to celebrate the 60th year of our meeting with our two sons and five grandchildren. Staying at the Statler Hotel for five days we visited the campus and hiked all over with our family. It was a great joy to share our memories. These included touring the Botanical Gardens, hiking the Cascadilla Gorge, enjoying a drink on the patio at Beebe Lake, hiking the Taughannock Falls followed by watching the July 4 fireworks, and playing golf on the Cornell course. (And yes, we loved the Straight cookies!)

  5. Debra Hertz, Class of 1976

    Like others have noted, when I was there ‘72-‘76 they were larger and flatter and also so warm and delicious! Sad to hear they’re no longer a staple of late night studying!

  6. Kathleen Carroll

    i wish they would provide all the recipes so we could experiment. I have fond memories too of very flat & big cookies! Only with those cookies did I dare “try” coffee. I would dip the Straight cookie deep into the coffee, then quickly suck the coffee out and swallow. 😂. How could it be anything but sugary deliciousness. I never made me into a coffee drinker though…

    I’m sad though that Straight Breaks no longer exist. I wonder why?
    – Too much bean counting?
    – Too much diet diversity to easily execute?
    – As someone suggested, students are too spread out as to where they study


    • Donna Perine Spinella, Class of 1978

      I’m with you, Kathleen! I wish that both of the orginal recipes would be provided. Not exactly a heartbreak to have to “test” two different batches of delicious chocolate cookies!

      Certainly with all the Food Science and Nutrition majors Cornell has turned out, a Straight Cookie Angel could come to our aid????

      • Beth Saulnier

        Hi, the story includes links to both recipes! The blue text in those sentences are links to the respective pages. Happy baking!

  7. Linda Byard, Class of 1968

    I remember eating ice cream (flavor: bittersweet) with Cory during Ivy breaks while listening to Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe.”

  8. Jeri Frank, Class of 1976

    I’m sorry I missed all the fun and cookies at the Straight Breaks. I was always hard at work at Mann Library until 11 pm when it closed, and I wasn’t going to walk back and forth to the Straight in the middle of it. Since I was out doing fun things (folk dancing, Bound for Glory concerts, Saturday night dates, etc.) other times, I was nose to the grindstone all the rest of the time. Too bad, though, that I missed all the cookies!

  9. Andrea, Class of 1989

    Maybe at some point Straight cookies were made with the individual ingredients in the recipe here, but when I worked in the Straight in the late 1980s, the main ingredients were large boxes of chocolate chip cookie mix (possibly General Mills) and bags of hot cocoa mix. They were baked fresh, but they were not what I would call from scratch.

    • Angela Helms (Anello), Class of 1988

      Yes I remember that too! I also worked in dining in 1985-6 and they had hot cocoa mix in them and they were flat.

  10. Greacian Goeke, Class of 1976

    At the risk of bursting some nostalgia bubbles…In my freshman year, 1971, I learned from a friend who worked in the Straight kitchen that the cookies were made from a dry mix that came in a commercial-sized box. He even showed me one of the boxes. The home-cooked illusion was sadly punctured. But it didn’t keep me from enjoying the cookies, large and flat with molten chocolate pools.

  11. Irene M. Labombarde, Class of 1981

    I was in the Cornell Chorus all four years (how I met my husband!). We offered singing Valentines — customers could pay to have Straight cookies delivered to someone with a song in four-part harmony:

    You need a Straight break, you need a Straight break
    You’re nerding out just a little too much.
    You need a Straight break, you need a Straight break
    So take some time out, time out to munch!

    • Debra Chesman, Class of 1981

      I remember delivering singing cookie breaks from the Chorus, too! One of the songs we did was to the tune of Paul Simon’s 59th Street Bridge Song.

  12. Irene M. (Albano) Labombarde, Class of 1981

    And humming the first tune reminded me of the second delivery song:

    (to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)

    A friend of yours is mighty concerned
    Afraid you work too hard
    She (or he) asked us to tell you to rest for awhile
    Which we do in a singing card

    Willard Straight Cookies (yum yum)
    We bring them here for you (yum yum yum)
    Willard Straight Cookies
    Munch out on one or two!

  13. Karen Beckvar, Class of 1975

    I worked at the Straight and we had a special shift for cashiers to handle the “Straight Break”. The cookies in the early seventies were large and flat and not dark brown. They likely were made from a mix but were freshly baked to be ready and warm for the 9:00 Straight Break.

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