Corrected Version: Change made to measurement of butter in recipe.
A lovely woman named Christine Holliday wrote to me recently, telling a very sweet - pun intended - story:
"I worked for a long time at St. Francis de Sales High School, an all-boys school in Toledo. During the course of my time there, I got to know many boys, and often received multiple invitations to graduation parties .... I couldn't afford to give all of them cash gifts, so I had to come up with something nice but substantial. I found that the students in my classes liked the brownies I brought to class after exams or on special occasions ...."
So Mrs. Holliday baked a batch of the brownies, took a picture of them, and then created a postcard to give to each student. The cards were captioned with "HELP, I NEED BROWNIES!", and included a space for each young man to write in his mailing address. She stamped and self-addressed them.
"I told each boy that when he felt a need for a care package from me, he should fill out the card with his address and mail the card to me. I would send him the brownies when he needed them .... I used the post card gift idea for many years. It provided something meaningful and familiar to my former students and it was fun for me to think of them enjoying the brownies as they continued their education!"
Now, many people might think that the postcards would get lost in the shuffle at graduation parties, or that they might get misplaced during the months of vacation (teenage boys not being noted for tidiness, after all!) or get left behind pinned to a billboard in a bedroom. But that's not what happened, is it?
These gifts, so simple and so sincere, clearly had great meaning to Mrs. Holliday's students. Of course, those young men valued the gift - it was a promise of chocolate! More importantly, though, they valued the woman who'd given the gift, who gave her time, her talents, and her kindness to them. Those postcards were kept safe through the summer, were carefully packed and brought to dorm rooms, were guarded. And then they were sent back as a request not only for brownies, but for a touch of home, for a remembrance of the old days. You can imagine the young men were excited when the care packages arrived, and that they shared generously with roommates and with friends down the hall. As they ate, they likely reminisced about high school and about the teacher who would bring treats for assorted events. You just know they smiled and laughed as they remembered, enjoying the stories as much as they did the brownies.
It's graduation season yet again. Instead of money or clothes or gift cards, perhaps give something unique and priceless, instead: the gift of food. It is also the gift of memory, and of love.
Mrs. Stanford's Brownies, a.k.a. The World's Best Brownies
- 1/2 pound butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
- at least 1 large Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar (2 is better!)
Named for "the mother of a long-time friend" of Mrs. Holliday; her recipe and her memory live on "in the kitchens of those high school friends who make the brownies for their kids and grandkids (and students)."
Mix ingredients together well, except for the chocolate bars. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 x 2 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (Use toothpick test to know when the brownies are done.) Remove the brownies from the oven and immediately put the large candy bar(s) on top. As the candy melts, spread it to frost the brownies. Refrigerate the frosted brownies until chilled.
Contact Mary Bilyeu at
or 419-724-6155 or on Twitter @foodfloozie.