Cookie contest: Treated to tradition

For this year's holiday cookie contest, we asked readers to share the story of the recipe they were submitting, and in response, we heard tales of tradition, memories and love.

One of the most striking stories came from Dell Smith, who shared her mother-in law Kitty Smith's recipe for Molasses Lace Cookies.

Dell began baking the cookies after her mother-in-law's death in 1973, but she said she was never a big fan of the molasses cookie, mostly because "they were tricky to get off the pan." One year she announced she would not be baking them anymore. Her husband, Otts Smith and their good friend and then-next-door neighbor, Bob Green, protested. They were their most favorite cookies.

The men decided they would take over the task and make a day out of it. In 1979, the "Annual Molasses Cookie Baking Day" got its start. The yearly ritual continued, even after the Greens moved away, until 2008 when Bob Green became critically ill with bacterial meningitis. He spent months in the hospital and in rehab and lost all his fingers and kneecaps to the disease. They all thought the tradition was history. However, as Dell pointed out, "Bob is a true inspiration." He has made a full recovery, is back to work full-time, and happily this year the two men were able to resume the beloved tradition.

Dell said they "frankly did not know what to expect, what Bob was or was not going to be able to do." However, on a recent Saturday, he dug right in. Dell and Otts had made several batches of the dough the night before and the two men maneuvered around each other easily in the Smiths' compact kitchen, dividing the baking tasks. Otts scooped the dough onto the cookie sheets and put them in the oven, and Bob, donning his prosthetic hand and wielding the metal spatula, took on the "tricky" task of scraping the finished cookies off the pan. The two old friends slipped back into the familiar rhythm of cookie-baking and beer-drinking just as in years past.

The house quickly filled with the smell of molasses as Dell and Bob's wife and daughter looked on in amazement.

As Dell said, "This is a story of friendship and longevity, but it's Bob's remarkable recovery that is the heart of it all."

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