Sister Anderson’s Brownies

Ana walked past the fishing nets drying along the shore. She was on her way to Maria’s home to ask her friend for help. When she arrived, Maria was sitting under a tree, embroidering a shawl. Ana sat down next to her. After admiring the embroidery, she asked, “Maria, ¿qu‚ es un brownie? (Maria, what is a brownie?) A friend of mine slipped on the street and broke her leg, and I want to give her something to make her feel better. She told me once that brownies were her favorite food. Mama said that if I found out how, I could make some for her, but I don’t even know what a brownie is.”

“Who is this friend who likes brownies?” Maria asked.

“Her name is Hermana (Sister) Anderson. She’s a missionary from the United States. She and her esposo (husband) came to Peru to teach people about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She taught our family the gospel, and we were baptized last month.”

“Why did you join a foreign church?” Maria asked.

“It’s not a foreign church. People all over the world are members. There are thousands of members here in Peru. Senor Garcia is one.”

“¡Senor Garcia!” Maria’s eyes widened in surprise. “But he lives right here in our town and owns the best boat!” (Maria’s and Ana’s fathers worked on a boat that caught pescados [fish]. Senor Garcia was well liked in their town because he was fair and honest with his workers.)

“We didn’t know that he belonged to the Church till Hermana Anderson took us there one Sunday. He greeted us at the door and helped us feel comfortable. After that he had the missionaries teach us in his home on the hill.”

“Wow! Are there others in our town that belong to your church?”

“Yes. You know, we are so happy now that we’re members that I want to do something special for the missionaries that helped us. How do I find out about brownies?”

“We could ask my mother,” Maria suggested. They went inside to ask her, but she just shook her head. She had never heard of brownies either. “Why don’t you ask Senorita Consuelo?” she suggested. “A teacher knows about many things.”

The girls ran down the path past the nets to Senorita Consuelo’s home. When she came to the door, they asked together, “¿Qu‚ es un brownie?

She smiled her twinkly smile at them and invited them in. After they were seated, she told them, “I’ve never heard of brownies, but I do have a good English dictionary. Let’s look it up.”

Together they searched the dictionary pages for the meaning of brownie. One definition read: “a small, flat, chocolate cake, often made with nuts.”

“A flat, chocolate cake,” Ana repeated happily. “We have some chocolate at home, but the dictionary doesn’t say what kind of nuts! Would any nuts do?”

Senorita Consuelo thought for a moment. “I think so. But why do you want to make a brownie?”

The girls explained that Hermana Anderson had broken her leg and was in bed.

“It’s sad to be sick so far from home,” Senorita Consuelo said. “I’ll help you make a brownie and take it to her.”

They walked to Ana’s house, and Mama helped them find a recipe for chocolate cake and alter it so that the cake would be flatter than a regular cake. Then they added nuts to the batter. When the cake came out of the oven, it looked very strange. The girls started to giggle when they saw the lumpy, lopsided cake.

“I can’t see why anyone would want to eat a brownie!” Maria said.

“A real brownie probably isn’t like this,” Ana said, laughing harder and harder, till the tears rolled down her cheeks. Senorita Consuelo and Mama started laughing too. When Ana finally stopped laughing, she said, “Maybe we should make arroz con leche (rice pudding) for her, instead. It’s easy to make that.”

“If she’s as nice as you say, she will appreciate your efforts to make her happier,” Senorita Consuelo counseled. “Let’s take her the brownie.”

When Hermano (Brother) Anderson opened the door of their casa (house), he greeted them warmly and immediately invited them in to visit Hermana Anderson. Ana gave the flat cake to her and explained, “It’s supposed to be a brownie. You said that brownies were your favorite food.”

“How thoughtful of you!” Hermana Anderson beamed at the small group. “I haven’t had one since we left Chicago. Hermano Anderson,” she directed, “please bring some plates and forks so that we can eat my brownie!”

She cut the cake and served a portion to everyone. Ana and Maria and Senorita Consuelo held their breath while Hermana Anderson took her first bite.

“That’s the best brownie I’ve ever eaten!” Sister Anderson told them. Ana and her friends took a bite too. It tasted good, even if it did look funny! Soon everyone was relaxed and enjoying themselves. It was fun to get to know each other over a Peruvian brownie.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Mike Eagle