Skip To Content

My grandmother’s brownies make everything better

This Shabbat, we are approaching our second Passover in the pandemic. I feel hollowed out. Empty. I miss my family. I want a large rowdy seder. The unfathomable – holiday without family – has become the routine.
I break out an old recipe book, the one my mother gave me at my bridal shower. I look through it, like a photo album of old friends. What can I cook this Shabbat before Passover? What will lift my spirits and prepare me for the holiday – and maybe use up some chametz? Finally, I find a recipe that is like an old friend – my Nana’s brownies.

My first seders were at my Nana and Zayde’s house. Their apartment in New Bedford overflowed with family and friends and bowls of matzo ball soup. There were Maxwell haggadahs and a lace tablecloth that eventually topped my sister’s chupah, and then my own.

As time marched on, the seders moved to my parents’ home in Brookline. They were beautiful affairs with upwards of 40 guests, one long beautiful table filled with Baron Herzog wine, fresh flowers, and generations of family and friends gathered together to share our people’s history, our foundational story of peoplehood. We were also there to eat, feasts my mother cooked for days, the table heavy with brisket, mNana’s stuffed veal, chopped liver from my Zayde’s antique meat grinder, tzimmes, and endless desserts.

Eventually, these seders moved to Cape Cod where my parents retired. There were new things, homegrown pickles and frog pinatas and a pajama seder the second night once the grandkids began to outnumber the adults. Still, there was the long table, the generations of family and friends gathering together, the same story and the same menu. Time could only change so much.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. In the pandemic, the days can feel endless and without reprieve. Beyond our individual disinfectant-soaked bubbles, time is marching on. We have missed a whole Jewish year of time together. The pandemic has underscored for me that the most powerful and limited resource in my life is time with the people I love.

As I cook my grandmother’s brownies, it’s like she is still with me. I feel less alone in my kitchen. I can still see her there, standing in her kitchen, rushing out to greet us with a tray of still-warm brownies. Always cut perfectly with a ruler and served from pretty pastel muffin cups. I remember why I named my daughter after her and all she taught me about making a warm, loving home. The sight of warm brownies on a white tablecloth by the Shabbat candles is worth passing down.

I wonder what she would tell me about surviving hard times. of when the grocery store they owned was washed away in a hurricane. Three times they lost everything. What did you do? How did you cope? I would ask her. She would wave her hand and say, we rebuilt, Carly. We got up the next day and we rebuilt it.

I think about all we’ve lost this year. We’ll rebuild it all, I whisper to myself, as the smell of chocolate fills my house.

Click here for the recipe.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.