The Weekly Kitchen: A taste of Fall and a mystery from local history

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By ANGELA McRAE, Special to The Weekly

Last fall, I was browsing at a local antique mall when I came across a vintage recipe booklet with a pretty orange gingham cover. The cute graphics caught my eye, but I was surprised when I read the title: Candy and Cookies Cook Book by the Newnan Junior Service League.

Like many Coweta cooks, I have a worn and much-used copy of the League’s legendary Taste of Georgia cookbook. But they also published a small candy and cookie recipe booklet? I’d never heard of it.

The book is old-fashioned in more ways than one. The typeface looks like that of publications from the fifties and sixties, but no publication date is listed. There’s not a cookie or candy in this book I wouldn’t like to try, but one in particular caught my eye: Elevator Lady Spice Cookies. No contributor name was listed. Why not? Were these cookies so common that everybody knew about them and there was no point in crediting just one cook? Or was the reverse true? Maybe these cookies were an exotic treat, the recipe hailing from an elevator lady at one of Atlanta’s grand old department stores.

The words “Elevator Lady” are intriguing. I’ve heard “Elevator Operator” in reference to the men who helped shoppers get from one floor to the next, but I’d never heard of an Elevator Lady (and I’ve always loved the word “lady”).

Since I’m a transplant, I asked my Facebook friends, some of whom have lived in Newnan much longer than I have, if they knew of any elevators here in the fifties or sixties, and it seems that freight elevators were much more common than people elevators back then. For that reason, I’m going to guess that the Elevator Lady Spice Cookies might have been baked in Newnan but did not originate in Newnan. (If any readers happen to know the true story behind Elevator Lady Spice Cookies, I’m all ears!)

Meanwhile, these cookies sounded like just the right “gateway cookie” to ease us into fall. These were super easy to make, and the rich taste from the molasses makes these quite decadent. They remind me of a more sophisticated, chewier version of the Biscoff cookies you often receive as a snack on airplanes. And if you’re not traveling this month, maybe you can travel back in time with these delicious cookies!

Elevator Lady Spice Cookies

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, add shortening, sugar, egg, and molasses and blend well. In larger bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Add dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine well. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and space 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Yields 40 cookies.

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