Her name was Evelyn Day Bruner. She lived in Brooklyn but was born in the Midwest.
While sorting through some boxes in my grandmother’s house, I found a tiny black book. And when I read the cover, I had to know more.
So I investigated, and discovered my great-great grandmother, Evelyn Day Brunner’s recipe book, my version of gold tucked away in an old drawer.
It’s frayed in all the right places, peeled and chipped to reveal the red under the black cover and gold script. I loved it immediately.
It has a tassel for marking your place.
And a proclamation that it was an “Elite” cooking recipe book. Not just an average one, in case there was any doubt in the 1800’s.
I had heard about this Brown Bread recipe in the family my whole life, but I had never tasted it.
And as I flipped I discovered she in fact had several Brown Bread recipes of various kinds.
I recognized other quirky family traditions within the pages, for example in a dessert of tapioca, she suggests no sugar at all, a particular habit of so many of her descendants, to eliminate sugar in order to accentuate the other flavors
On a page of Chicken Croquettes were the markings where she had dripped on the page while trying the recipe.
And from time to time there was an extra note slipped into the pages of the book…
Someone else’s Brown Bread, someone named Mrs. Core, had the most wonderful line of all: “Sometimes we cram as many chopped raisins and chopped nuts in as our conscience will allow.”
There were three more Brown Bread recipes I stumbled upon in the book that day.
And shortly after, on my doorstep, I received the latest edition of our modern family recipe book in the mail, a compilation of six generations of recipes from the family tree. Each new addition of the book keeps the recipes of the old books, and adds the new ones collected from all of the new family members born since the last addition. It had been over 25 years since the last edition and guess what was in it?
More brown bread.
It was then that I was seized with the overwhelming realization that I wasn’t a legitimate member of the family tree.
I had never tasted, let alone made brown bread.
It was time.
It was my destiny.
Brown Bread and Me would finally intersect in the history books.
I took a moment of silence to reflect on how good this was warm with butter…
And lemon curd…
Evelyn Day Bruner would approve.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Yield: 1 loaf
- 2 cups whole wheat or graham flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Sift and mix the dry ingredients, except the baking soda.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the soda, buttermilk and molasses.
4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
5. Stir in the walnuts.
6. Pour the mixture into a greased bread baking pan and cook for about an hour until well risen and browned on top.
About Georgia Pellegrini:
Georgia’s taste for simple food and outdoor adventure evolved as she grew up in the Hudson Valley. She followed her passion to the French Culinary Institute and then to Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and La Chassagnette in France. Georgia is the author of “Food Heroes,” “Girl Hunter,” and the new book “Modern Pioneering.” She has appeared on Today, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Iron Chef, and much more, and her outdoor Adventure Getaways have been featured everywhere from the New York Times, to the Wall Street Journal, to HBO. She lives in Austin, Texas and chronicles her adventures on her wildly popular website GeorgiaPellegrini.com and her Facebook fan page.