Once when I was a young lad, having a thought to bake a cake, and so leafing through Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, my dad happened to walk past. As he did, ruffling my hair, he glanced down to have a look at what I was reading, as was his wont, and made one utterance.
“Brownies! Chocolate brownies!” And then he walked on.
Looking up at Dad, I was left with this memory of looking up at Dad, as clear as a bell. Chocolate brownies ... curious! Clearly a vivid and delicious memory had been triggered. Dad was as keen as can be about North America, and Canada in particular. He had apprenticed himself to an advertising agency in Montreal in the 1950s having graduated from art school in Dundee. Curiously, apart from the bowls of spaghetti bolognese Dad ate at a huge restaurant in Montreal for mere cents (being paid very little), chocolate brownies were the only culinary memory Dad ever shared from his time there. It gave me the distinct impression that a brownie was North America in chocolate form.
Many years later, when I worked for a catering company in London called Duff and Trotter, the book ever at hand was the Silver Palate Cookbook – the bible for all delicatessen shops, the sole surviving copy of which I still have (a fair few having drowned in cake batter and other such incidents best left undisclosed). Its pages are covered in chocolate paw prints – particularly that with the chocolate brownie recipe.