From 1946 to 1950, my family lived in an apartment on the third floor of Flora Cramer’s house on Main Street in Morrisville, N.Y. The house was reportedly the first frame house built in Morrisville, whatever that means, and the closest neighbor was Lyndon Howlett, Morrisville’s unofficial historian. I would often escape to the Howletts while my mother was preoccupied with my baby brother Larry.
But it was not Mr. Howlett’s wizened brow or aromatic rum and maple pipe tobacco that attracted me to his house. It was Mrs. Howlett’s kitchen, redolent with sweet smelling cooking aromas and populated with perfumed daughters dressed in slips.
The daughters would welcome me warmly, cooing to each other how cute I was (I was 3), and lift me onto their seminude laps. I remember so vividly the shaved stubble on their shapely legs that I wonder if this was the beginning of my earliest erotic stirrings. But what I remember most is the molasses cookies they served with milk.
The cookies, in my sometimes lonely opinion, were delicious. They were sweetened entirely by dark molasses, which many people don’t find sweet enough. For me, the spicy tartness in my mouth, combined with the sensation of warm legs rising and falling beneath my butt, were bliss.
Mrs. Howlett gave the cookie recipe to my mother, who passed it along to me. Over the years I have successfully recreated those cookies on a number of occasions and I loved each bite. However, none of my children liked them very much. In fact, they hated them. Consequently, I have not baked these cookies for years, mostly because five cups of flour combined with two cups of one of nature’s most effective purgatives is too much for a solo endeavor.
Recently, however, I was surprised when daughter Angela called from Southern California to ask for the recipe. I am not sure if she was trying to determine whether her unpleasant memories of the cookies had been a childish error, or perhaps she wanted to share the concoction with her anthropology students to compare it with indigenous mud pastes. Whatever the reason, I am delighted to allow the recipe to resurface.
Mrs. Howlett’s Acquired Taste Molasses Cookies are best in fall and winter, and they add an unusual if not universally appreciated ambience too any meal. I’ll be pre-heating my oven soon. If you are also inspired to try them out, let me know – as politely as you are able – what you think.