Valentine’s Day. In keeping with the spirit, Masterpiece Classics served up a double helping of Downton Abbey romance last night. A great pre-Valentine’s Day date night in our home which we enjoyed, even though we had seen these episodes before. Love gained, love lost, wedding bliss, wedding cancelled, attempted elopement, a funeral, an arrest. Yes, Downton Abbey has it all, and it is all good.
The sad news is that there is only one episode left (the Christmas episode) and North America will soon join the UK in the count down to September for the anticipated launch of Season 3. To keep my spirits up I am still spending some time playing a little game of matching Downton Abbey couples with my Valentine’s Day favorite sweets.
Lady Sybil and Tom Branson: The idealistic romantics
Lord Grantham is now regretting the day he hired Tom Branson, a “revolutionary chaffeur”way back in Season 1. He discovers that his daughter plans to toss aside her life of privilege for the love of an idealistic and live the life of commoners. After much posturing, he finally concedes that she is leaving for love with or without his blessing, while the Dowager Countess processes how to best spin this news to those who matter.
This was a long simmering romance. Tom Branson patiently waited 14 episodes for Lady Sybil to decide that he was “her ticket to travel”. She gives him permission to kiss her, but “that is all until everything is settled”. A great example for young viewers to follow: think before you act. If he loves you, he will wait for you. While this is very much an idealistic pairing of young love from two different worlds, it is not improbable. I recall the love story of a similarly matched couple from my childhood: beautiful privileged British maiden meets handsome school teacher and they run away to Canada to raise 9 children. I remember that it was “literally” a house full of love.
Young love like a brownie
For some reason I seem to be stuck on choosing brownies for this couple. I was trying to think of a dessert that evokes innocence, youth; this tasty treat is a mash up of two separate existing sweets. I got thinking about brownies since they are a cross between cake and cookie, triggered by a post from Foodimentary that Friday was National Have a Brownie Day. Foodimentary (http://foodimentary.com) is a great blog which celebrates food with a featured food, history and fun facts. All in a convenient take away container.
Brownies, like young love, come in a variety of forms. They are either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density, and they may include nuts, frosting, whipped cream, chocolate chips, or other ingredients. All goodness.
History of the Brownie
Brownies are period appropriate, but like many dishes, it appears to have evolved, and not necessarily invented. Some believe that brownies are an Americanization of Scottish cocoa scones, a scottish relative of the Orkney Broonie (which has oats). Foodimentary mentions a connection with the Palmer House Hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition (The largest World’s Fair of it’s time). Food historians look for printed recipes to determine a time line, and verification. American Fannie Farmer published the first known brownie recipe in 1896. In any case it has long been a particularly popular treat in North America, so look for Cora’s mother to be asking Mrs. Patmore to make them in Season 3.
I enjoy the sweets, but always look to find a way to make healthier versions. Here is an easy great one. This also allows you to do “girl math”: eat twice as much since they have less calories. So bake a batch for your Valentine, your kids, your tea tray, or your foodie friends as a Downton Abbey viewing party treat.