Our son Richard has been a Rotary exchange student in Brasil since July. I can count the telephone calls we’ve received from him on one hand: the day after he arrived, Christmas Eve, and a few days after his 18th birthday. He sent us one youtube video of himself from a news report of a professional soccer game. (He was in the stands. I thought I spotted him wearing a striped shirt, but I was wrong. Had it been so long that I didn’t recognize my own son? He was the shirtless wild man waving his jersey above his head like a helicopter.) Over the last 10 months there were never enough emails and the majority concerned problems getting money from his U.S. bank card through Brasilian ATM machines.
Late last week his email was a little different. It started off with “One month from tomorrow I’ll be leaving this paradise.” With that timetable, I actually allowed myself to get excited for his homecoming. Then, he asked a favor: Please send a few boxes of brownie mix!
A little background: When Richard packed his suitcases last summer, he was under strict baggage weight restrictions. One of the suggestions for exchange students is that they occasionally cook for their host families. So, Richard packed a few boxes of pancake and brownie mix, and Pennsylvania maple syrup. The boxes traveled well; the syrup did not.
Getting back to last week’s email, Richard wrote that his host mom, Meire, loves his brownies and they’re a real hit with his friends in Juiz de Fora. “I made them for my class on my birthday and the requests won’t cease.”
So, I went to Weis and bought six boxes of Betty Crocker Brownie Mix with Hershey’s chocolate, which gives them a “local” twist. I found a strong cardboard box and packed them. Then I dashed an email off to my mother’s college roommate and life-long friend, Trig.
I saw Trig over the winter while visiting my mother in State College and she told me about a book she’s writing called “Brownie Points.” The book revolves around her delicious brownies that have sweetened palates from San Francisco to the North Pole to Singapore, and everywhere she has traveled in between. Trig once gave my two nephews who visited her in Tiburon a goody bag of brownies to take for the road, and a second bag for the Golden Gate toll-takers. She is quite the character. While others go quietly into their 80s, Trig became an actress with a leading role in a short film called “Grand Ma Takedown”. In the film she is dressed from hat to hem in hot pink, packs a handgun, and confronts bank robbers and ninjas.
Trig responded to my email about Richard wanting brownie mix by asking for his address so she could send him some “real brownies”. Meanwhile, I took my box to the post office and filled out the requisite custom form. Contents: Betty Crocker Brownie Mix. Quantity: 6 boxes. Weight: 9 lbs. 0 oz. Value: $15. Postage: $53.25.
$68.25 for six batches of brownies. An extravagant expense, yes. But in my book, Richard baking brownies for his host mom and Brasilian friends is priceless when it comes to brownie points. Laurie Lynch
I asked Trig (AKA Joyce Turley) if I could share her recipe in this newsletter and she responded, “Sure. It will be on the back cover of my book. Recipes are like ballads — gifts of love to be shared.”
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (Trig uses Sees chocolate chips from California)
1 ½ sticks butter, European-style if possible
3 eggs in blender; add ½ cup flaked coconut and liquefy in blender.
1 ½ cups pure-cane sugar
1 ½ teaspoons good vanilla (Try to get 100% pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts and 2 cups whole or pieces of walnuts (less if desired)
¼ cup chopped black walnuts (optional)
Microwave chocolate and butter in large bowl on high for 4 minutes or until melted. Dump in all other ingredients.
Spread in greased 7½ x 7½ baking dish. (Trig lines the dish with parchment paper.) Bake at 350 degrees for 31 minutes. Turn oven off and remove when cool. Cut into squares when cool or best if cut after sitting overnight. If you’re having a sugar attack, cool in refrigerator for an hour, then cut and lift carefully so they won’t crumble.
Farm Visitors: It’s been a busy week at Fleur-de-Lys Farm. A neighbor brought three visitors from China for a tour and then a photographer from “Organic Gardening” came to check out our garlic field for possible photos to illustrate an upcoming article.
Last Set of Easter Peep Names: Our buddy Otis likes random, rhyming words for animals and dolls, so he named his Easter chicks Shaggit and Naggit.
Fresh at the Farm: This week we have dozens of pastel-colored eggs from our pastured hens. With the heat and rain, we’re cutting Purple Passion and green asparagus twice a day, and watering our heirloom tomato and pepper seedlings at least as often. Lots of herbs in the cutting garden as well.
Written on Slate: “Life is a privilege to be seized and nurtured until every joyful, exasperating, shocking, fulfilling moment has been savored. Then – you go back for seconds.” – Joseph Alioto
“Make sure you have Brownies when you go back.” – Joyce Turley