Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finding Solace in Brownies

Featured in The Egypt Monocle

I was sitting on the floor of our apartment on the 21st floor. Sliding the balcony's glass door open, I let Malaysia's humidity touch our skin; my stepkids, me, barefoot. "Like this?" Youssef asked, sitting in his camouflaged t-shirt and mismatched shorts, as I took photo after photo to post for you to see, here. "I want to stir the brownies now, Sarah. It's my turn," Talia chirped at first, her voice quietly deepening, tensing up. "Only if Sarah lets me take a photo while you stir," Youssef teased. 
Placing the camera around his neck, watching him secure it in his hands, my stepson had grown from the three year old that I had first spent time with on a boat cruising down the Nile. 
And then it happened what it was that happened until we reach this time of year, his 10th birthday. But we are not there to see it, to see him. Not his dad, not his grandma, not me. This is our law, Egypt. This is the law that allows mothers to deny fathers their right to spend time with their children, to hear their voices, to watch them grow - become hot-headed teenagers with sex drives. 

What if the father, after succumbing to court, has finally received a court order to see his child? He sees them (if the mother brings them) in the presence of the mom and a designated official from the government. All that's missing is a glass wall. Of course, all of us on the father's side of the family are in no way entitled to know the children; exceptions may be made for grandmothers if their sons are away but stepmothers? Me? Never.

Little did I know that day on the Nile that I, who was not invited to his birthday before becoming his father's wife, would not be able to speak to him again on his birthday five years into being his stepmother. And so it stays, all of us in one city, all of us learning to adapt to a situation we have been forced into, all for own reasons. I hope you have a beautiful birthday, Youssef. You are on our minds today and I wish you were here to make (or eat) these brownies with us.       
Pistachio-Milk Chocolate Brownies 
(Adapted from Epicurious)
You'll need: 
100 grams of unsalted butter
230 grams of milk chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
A handful of pistachios, chopped
A dash of sea salt

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Butter and flour a 20 cm pan (8x8"). Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, continuously stirring until smooth. Cool until lukewarm. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla then slowly pour in half of the chocolate until the mixture is glossy. Add the flour and ½ teaspoon of salt then half of the pistachios. Mix well, beating hard, to incorporate. Stir in the remaining half of chocolate and spread the batter in a pan and sprinkle with the rest of the pistachios and sea salt. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.


  1. Great, how can I contact u:)

    1. Hi Tito, you can find my email address on my contact page.

  2. I'd just like to say: those look amazing.

    1. 3 trays into them, I don't want to taste them again for a few months.

  3. The brownies look so good. I personally love pistachios


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