Good brownies, good friends and good memories

By Barb Lumley

As my granddaughter and I recently welcomed consignors and organized the paperwork for a dairy sale, a good friend stopped by to say “hello” and brought us a plate of brownies. So chocolaty, so filled with nuts, so delicious and so nice of her — brownies are always perfect with a big glass of cold milk.

The first person to put a recipe for “brownies” in a cookbook was Fanny Farmer, who adapted her cookie recipe to be baked in a rectangular pan in the 1896 edition of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. However, that recipe contained no chocolate. Farmer had made what we today call a blondie. In the late 1890s two advertisements referring to brownies appeared. The first, in the 1897 Sears Roebuck catalog, advertised brownies, but those treats could have been either chocolate or molasses based. In 1906, Fannie Farmer published an updated version of her cookbook that included a blondie recipe and a brownie recipe, both called brownies. After that the recipe started spreading nationally.

I remember so well the first time I tasted brownies. It was at a Farm Bureau Council meeting that I attended with my Dad and Mom. I don’t remember the year but do remember it was in the fall. The meeting was hosted by Guy and Dorothy Stine. They were hard working dairy farmers with a well-kept farm, a good herd of cows, and a big, old house with nice things in it including a piano. As the meetings always went, there was a business meeting, a discussion on a subject usually provided by Farm Bureau and then there was food and fellowship. Dorothy was an excellent cook and there were hot sandwiches, salad, home canned pickles and relishes, and then dessert — brownies — a new recipe she had found. The brownies brought about a lot of discussion among the ladies present, as no one had made them before. There were many requests for the recipe. I thought they were wonderful, so chocolaty and full of nuts, just like the ones my friend brought us the other day.

As I thought about that time, so many years ago, I also thought about the people there and their lives. There were the three Fisher brothers and their wives. They milked cows, raised sheep, raised hogs, did custom harvesting for other farmers, ran a grain binder, baled hay and straw, and took their threshing machine all over the area. Their wives and children usually milked the cows and took care of the livestock. The Shawver brothers also did custom work, raised sheep and were known as the best sheep shearers in the country, at times giving demonstrations at county fairs. One of them milked dairy cows, with his wife and young son handling chores when he had to be away. The Butterfield Family had one of the best Jersey herds around. The Slates family milked registered Ayrshires, raised hogs, and Mrs. Slates had a huge flock of chickens, sold eggs, and made delicious, tall, fluffy angel food cakes. The Reigle family farmed and ran a sawmill. There were older couples who were considered “retired” but who still helped their families on the farm in any way they could. There were many memories of those good farm families and an enjoyable evening brought back by a plate of brownies.

With all the difficult problems that farmers are dealing with today and all the turmoil out in the world, perhaps what everybody needs is more get-togethers, more friendly discussion, more cold milk and more brownies. We may not be able to solve the problems, but I am sure the fellowship and the brownies would help to make all of us feel better.

The “Barbwire” column is written by Barb Lumley, a retired Registered Holstein breeder (both Red and White and Black and White) living in Carroll County near Carrollton. She has been writing dairy industry sale reports, show reports and regular columns for more than 20 years. She has written a paperback book “Black & White and Read All Over” available on Amazon. She has been active in the Ohio Holstein Association as well as numerous other activities and associations for many years. 

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