Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


A Beloved Brownie Lives On

We visited Desolation Sound again last week and among the many pleasures of the early fall vacation there was remembering my mother and father-in-law, their connection with this place, and how they brought us to it. Perfect weather, kayaking, picnics, hot tubbing, family lore, sleep, reading, good food. There’s no running to the grocery store, this place is accessible only by boat, so you bring in every sprinkle of what you need, though herbs in the garden there were lovely. We packed the bittersweet squares of chocolate for making Bert’s brownies, a Desolation Sound ritual.

This repost from September 28, 2009 tells the story, presidential debate notwithstanding this time around – which we streamed online via wifi that was barely accessible on the cove below the cabin. With all due respect to presidential debates, the sunset and emerging stars that evening stole the show.

Follow me and I’ll take you to Bert’s Brownies – it might be a circuitous route. Roberta’s hugs were never obligatory or cavalier. She would take hold of you, look you in the eye with a smile and go in for the real deal, a long lasting embrace including whispered words of affection. For that moment you were the world to her. And that’s how I held our Desolation Sound vacation last week. I opened up my arms, grabbed hold and savored a long repose that went on for seven days and nights.



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There was intention to this trip. We love the place, have sailed here many summers, and wanted to return on our own behalf, and we had Roberta’s ashes with us, my mother-in-law, to place in a tool shed on the dock with others of her generation. Her dearest friends, including Ben, her husband. They had all loved the place together every summer for twenty-odd years. So the week was filled with our own exploration and adventure while we reminisced about her – that she and Ben first brought us to this place, that friends made there are like family now, that she, among a few others, led us to loving the wild B.C. coast, sailing, skinny dipping, conversation and good food.

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Which brings us to the brownies. Her vacation menus were thoughtfully planned in advance of each month-long trip, lovingly prepared with a cocktail hour and something for dessert. Salad, while usually delicious, would sometimes include a few lettuce leaves past their prime – she hated throwing those only half rotten bits away. But, if you were lucky she’d have made a batch of brownies. Bert’s Brownies.

So, while we were there we forced ourselves – it was rough, but somebody had to do it – to also be thoughtful about skinny-dipping, bird watching, conversation, the cocktail hour, appetizers, homemade bread, cinnamon toast in the morning (another ode to Bert), dessert, and especially her brownies. Two batches made last week for after dinner and a bite with coffee in the mornings. It was a long hug in her honor, our week in Desolation Sound.

Bert’s Brownies Recipe

1/2 C butter

3 squares unsweetened chocolate

4 eggs

2 C sugar

1 C flour

1/2 t salt

1 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

This can easily be mixed by hand. Slowly melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, stirring occasionally/ Allow to cool a few minutes/ Beat eggs and sugar until well blended/Add vanilla/ While stirring, slowly add chocolate and mix thoroughly/ Stir in dry ingredients/ Add 1/2 C or more of chopped nuts if desired/ A 13″ x 9″ x 2″ pan is ideal, but anything close to that will work. I used a larger pan while on vacation and the brownies were a little flatter than usual, but fine/ Butter and lightly flour pan, bake in a 350º oven for 25 – 30 minutes.


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13 Responses »

  1. sally (and bob),

    you couldn´t have done better than the red tin and the brownies….but you sure did. it´s all that golden light pouring in.
    i am almost there, sitting in my studio tonight right next to the pacific ocean, pounding in, wave after wave after wave.
    thanks and love

  2. Beautiful — and a beautiful tribute to Bert.

  3. Sally, what a beautiful tribute to Bert. Your words and photos made my heart smile. Thank you for sharing Bert’s Brownies with us and for sharing your week of loving embrace.
    Tanti baci,

  4. Sally….no surprise you are such a favorite with me. What a touching tribute to Bert…and a good reminder of the Cousin Trip from Mink to Seattle and Ben’s ashes. The Rangers will be coming to Nahant this week for their annual…I will get out the pictures….Roland family dinner Sunday nite here…Lobster Rolls and Haddock/Scrod. Miss you and Bob……lots of love, Edie

  5. Sally, I cant even begin to imagine a more lovely memorial. Your tender words and incredibly stunning photos capture so much. And then the brownies! Thank you for sharing. Carmen

  6. What an amazing way to remember her.

  7. Sally, thank you so much: for making the trip, you and Bob, for making the brownies and taking the pictures, for making me cry and for loving my mom.

  8. dear sal & bob
    thanx 4 sharing yr vacation story and yr hospitality on my vacation. i miss u and yr great family and friends so much. i love yr blog and wish u the best always

  9. What a lovely tribute to Roberta and the experiences of Mink Island and summer cruising. The joy is vividly remembered and the sigh is long and deep.

  10. Sally,
    You savor life like I would savor one of Bert’s rich brownies. I will take a cue and enjoy this bright October Sunday accordingly.

  11. Wonderful to read, and to take to heart. Thank you, Sally –

  12. oh my, Sally, this might be my favorite post yet!! The photo of the full moonrise over the Sound is magical and took me straight back to a kayak trip Mark and I took to Desolation Sound years ago. One of our best and most memorable shared experiences to date.
    The paragraph describing Roberta’s hugs was so tenderly written it brought tears to my eyes. I have known some soulful hugs like that, and to me, there are never enough of them!
    The brownies WILL be made, and soon! I just had my Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook open to the brownie pages, as I have been having a craving, but the book is now back up on the shelf, and I’ll be baking up a batch of Bert’s ~ to honor a woman I never knew.
    Sounds like you had a fabulous time…no, beyond !
    Miss you


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