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    The Shift

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    At 7 p.m., Elizabeth Kizito pulls a metal cart carrying boxes of her namesake cookies toward a section of seating near the outfield at Louisville Slugger Field. The boxes hold close to 400 individually wrapped cookies, all of which she hopes to sell from the woven basket she balances atop her head — a skill she learned growing up in Uganda. “Some people tell me it looks easy. It’s not easy. That’s why I go to the gym: to carry cookies,” she says, flexing her biceps in jest.

    It’s 87 degrees outside. The only pace her black-and-white sneakers know is fast. She parts crowds of fans carrying hot dogs and cheap beers. Before she has a chance to fill her basket, people stop her. She sells the cookies directly from the boxes she packed early this morning at her Kizito Cookies bakery on Bardstown Road, where  she usually starts her workdays at 6 a.m. She parks her wagon, referring to it as her “little buddy,” behind a row of seats and fills her basket by the handful, jamming up to 30 brightly colored packages of cookies in it at a time. Leaving the wagon unattended, she descends the 20 steps between rows of seats. “Nobody gonna touch my wagon,” she assures me later. “They all know it’s the cookie lady’s wagon.” She’s been working Bats games for 20 years and says the ballpark staff looks out for her. She’s so well known here that, on Aug. 2, the Bats released an Elizabeth Kizito bobblehead.

    Waving both of her hands, she shouts, “Cookies! Cookies!” Her beaded earrings sway with her motion. She plants herself at the bottom of the aisle. In her neon, geometric- patterned dress, she demands attention, rattling off flavors: “Peanut butter! Chocolate chip! Double-double chocolate! Snickerdoodle!” Fists full of dollars shoot up. Kizito weaves in and out of the tight rows. “Three for $7,” she says, taking the basket from her head and propping it on her knee.

    When Kizito came to the U.S. from Uganda in 1972 at the age of 17, she’d never eaten a cookie before. After trying a chocolate chip cookie for the first time, she says, “I just liked it so much.” Having learned how to bake in boarding school in Uganda, she began making her own cookies and sharing them with her co-workers at Charley’s, a restaurant in downtown Louisville where she waited tables. (She moved here with her first husband.) When Charley’s looked like it might go out of business, Kizito had just had her first child and was a single mother. “I didn’t know what to do with my life,” she says. “Everybody liked my cookies, and they tell me they are good.” So, she thought, “Well, I guess I’ll start vending.” In 1989, she opened her storefront on Bardstown Road.

    A middle-aged woman sporting a shirt for tonight’s opponent, the Toledo Mud Hens, almost loses her mind when she sees Kizito. She stands up, waving her hands with excitement. “The cookie lady!” she exclaims, shaking her friend next to her. “The cookie lady!” Another says, “We love you! You’re a legend in Cincinnati. Everyone wants to meet you,” then snaps a picture with Kizito. One man asks her, “Do you ever age?” Kizito, 64, replies, “No!” Another man buys 13 cookies, passing them one by one down his row.

    Kizito will call it a day when she has made it around the entire stadium or sold out. At a quarter to 9 p.m.., she calls it quits, having run out of her bestseller: chocolate chip. (“I don’t sell a lot of oatmeal (cookies), but the old guys like them, so I bring them. I call them Oatmales,” she says with a laugh.) Stopping at a vacant Papa John’s pizza stand, she counts the leftovers. Tonight, Kizito has sold 340 cookies. She writes a check to the Bats for 30 percent of her sales. That’s the deal. She’ll be back tomorrow to sell more.

    This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "The Way the Cookie Crumbles." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Illustration by Shae Goodlett,

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    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

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