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Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies

This feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s barely been four years.

On a humid September night in Chennai, India, in 2009, I remember being curled up barefeet on the couch in my hotel room, having a heart-to-heart talk with my newly-married colleague Feyi, the strong and independent woman from Lagos, Nigeria.

We were there in India as part of our International Graduate program, and within the group of around 15 colleagues, there was a certain honesty about Feyi that I instinctively felt I could trust.

That night, in what felt like a huge gush of breath, and a moment of entirety, I told her about the possibility which I’d only recently started thinking about. 

A decision to re-locate and move to Argentina, a country so far from Singapore you couldn’t reach without at least two or three flight connections; a nation whose culture was as different from what I’d grown up with as black and white; a place where I had no friends nor family nor job; but the place where the person who had stolen my heart was living.

cornbread in a cast iron skillet

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Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies

I thought about the possibility of giving up a well-paying job in a secure first-world economy, and the probability that finding a job, any job for that matter, in Argentina, would most likely be low.

I looked at my family, and knew I would miss them, even if we weren’t the most affectionate or expressive of families ever, and how the 11-hour time difference and physical distance between both countries would make it harder for us to communicate.

I knew the challenges of starting in a new country, one where you had no roots, nor social circles to call your own; one in which a different language and cultural differences would make things even harder than expected; and the food, oh dear, the food, which may be amazing and delicious but still did not carry the distinct and familiar taste of home.

I ran through all these in my mind, and in the end, I made a decision.

A decision that would take me straight out of my comfort zone, into another place, somewhere totally distinct and with contrasts so stark, into the arms of the man I love.

Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies18

Now, four years later, I’ve got a temporary residence permit, I can shout and dream and think in Spanish, I know my way around the streets, as if I were born in the neighborhood I’m currently staying in, and while I even know the butcher’s name and the fact that the vegetable seller’s daughter has run away from home; or how I’ve made friends whom I can call and cry with on the phone, or friends whose houses have become so familiar, and I live with my boyfriend, it still feels like sometimes I’m on the outside looking in.

No one ever said an inter-cultural relationship was easy. They just never said that it could also be so hard sometimes, especially the part where one of you has to give up being in your own country. When the dust of initial excitement and adventure of re-locating settles, and when daily life and realities become clear, there seems to be something unsettling.

I feel a very strong need to be nearer home, and I think it’s time for a change – perhaps a change in countries, to be somewhere nearer my family and friends.

I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’m hopeful, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies11

I miss being a car-ride away from my family or closest friends; or being back at home to see my baby cousins grow up. During the few times that I pick up the phone to call my grandma, I can tell, my mandarin’s getting worse; I sometimes feel further and further away from them, and a huge, incredible wave of nostalgia envelopes me, smothering me until I choke on it and the tears start washing it away.

In the midst of homesickness, and uncertainty and wondering whether there are such things as right choices or wrong choices made right, in the midst of being torn apart and stretched thin and feeling lost, I turn to something I know I can control.

Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies10

I escape to the kitchen, to its warmth in the midst of winter, and start baking.

I combine melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and beaten eggs together, knowing that their fusion with form a dark brown liquid. I sift in self-raising flour, a pinch of salt and roughly chopped walnuts – and then mix them together to form a homogeneous batter.

I know that if I pour this caramel brown batter in a greased baking tray, and top it with a generous sprinkle of chocolate chips, and then push them into the waiting oven, the batter will work its magic and rise.

I know that when I finally pull out the baking tray from the hot oven, I will get warm, chewy brownies interlaced with chunks of rich walnuts and melted chocolate chips.

Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies7

There is comfort in knowing it’s chemistry that you can rely on, that in the confines of a kitchen, with ingredients measured at the right quantities and following a recipe as closely as practically possible, you know what sort of results you’ll end up with, even if it’s the first time you’re testing the recipe.

So these were the cookies that I baked, that helped me stay grounded and steady.

I hope you like them too. <3

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BLONDE CHOCOLATE CHIP BROWNIES (Makes 24 brownies)
Adapted from: All Recipes

Ingredients:

1) 2 cups self-raising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda)
2) 1 teaspoon of salt
3) 1 cup of chopped walnuts
4) 160g of butter, melted
5) 2 cups brown sugar
6) 2 eggs
7) 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
8) 1 cup of chocolate chips

Steps:

1) Sift flour and mix with salt and chopped walnuts
2) Mix melted butter with sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until you get a homogeneous mixture
3) Pre-heat oven to 180 deg cel (350 deg farenheit)
4) Add flour mixture to butter mixture until you get a homogeneous batter
5) In a greased baking tray, pour in the batter until entire surface is covered
6) Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of batter
7) Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
8) Allow brownies to cool well (at least 15 minutes) before cutting into squares


Sift flour and mix with salt and chopped walnuts:
Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies

Mix melted butter with sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until you get a homogeneous mixture:
Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies1

Add flour mixture to butter mixture until you get a homogeneous batter:
Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies3

In a greased baking tray, pour in the batter until entire surface is covered, then sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of batter:
Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies5

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow brownies to cool well (at least 15 minutes) before cutting into squares:
Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies13

14 Comments

  1. Oh sweetie, I can only imagine how difficult all that must be. :/ I know I have my own struggles and trials to deal with, and the kitchen IS indeed the most comforting place to deal with them. It’s just so simple and so gratifying. Felicia I hope you get some time to just breathe and think about what YOU need in life; I will be sending tons of support and love from over here in the US. <3 <3

    1. Thank u so much Jess for all your air-flown love and support!! The kitchen is indeed gratifying 😉 so glad I have an inexpensive therapy to seek comfort in!! <3

  2. I know how you feel Felicia. 15 years ago, while living in Seattle and our family 1000 miles away we decided we needed to be near them and moved “back home”. Although we love our family dearly we ended up BACK in Seattle 2 years later. I guess it was an extreme case of homesickness that led us to make the move. I’ll never forget pulling into our “home town” and looking at each other like “why did we do this, we should have just come down for a visit!” Anyway, I know how it feels to be homesick, however, I didn’t change “cultures” as you have! I hope you find your peace about this…in the meantime…you certainly bake some fantastic goods while in contemplation!

    1. Hi Seana!! Thank you for your kind words dear friend and for sharing your story! I love being here in Buenos Aires, but there are things about being nearer the family which makes life more beautiful. Right now I’m 30 hours by plane away from Singapore, and even if I had the money to fly back more than once a year, I certainly don’t have the leave to do so! And it’s too ex for friends or fam to just “pop by” for a visit!

      On another note… How’s your new job coming along? I hope u’re liking it! Xoxo

  3. We all miss you greatly and I am trusting the Lord to open doors to bring you and Juan back to Singapore where we can be together without the distance to separate us. Then we can also bake and cook together.

    In the past I have always used premixed ingredients to bake my brownies and I have found them to be too sweet and unable to alter the portion of ingredients to my taste. Now I can bake brownies using your brownie recipe right from scratch which also allows me the opportunity to increase or reduce the ingredients to my taste. I really love your recipe 🙂 Thanks for posting! 🙂

    1. Yes, I hope so too! Praying hard for open doors 🙂 thank you for being so supportive and always praying for us!

      I thought u had a brownie recipe from scratch that you passed to me once? It’s on my blog too! Or did I get it mixed up?? You should really try this recipe though – even Miriam and Adrian liked the brownies cos I sent some for Val to take to the stables!!

  4. Such an honest post, with a batch of wonderful blondies too! There’s no place like your country of origin, and that is true for almost everyone. I too think there are no right or wrong decisions, because like we say here, it’s easy to make a decision with tomorrow’s newspaper. If the decision if right at the time you make it, then it’s the right decision.

    1. Paula! I’m so glad you understand what I mean… I like the phrase you mentioned.. although I’ve never heard it in Spanish! Thanks for being so supportive – I’m sure you’re right. If a decision was done in the best interests at the point of time, then it’s right 🙂 And I have no regrets moving to Argentina, I just miss being with my family and friends much more than I’d expected I would!

      un beso!

  5. Wow, what a powerfully written post (and a delicious-looking recipe)! I know those feelings of homesickness—and being torn between continents—all too well. I hope something works out that allows you to see your family more often and still know that every decision you’ve made has been the right one for you! : )

    1. Hi Allison, thanks so much for reading 🙂 And thanks for your words of understanding. What you said is so true – I want to be able to work something out that will let me see my family more often, and still know that every choice and risk I take was completely worth it!

      Take care when you visit you family & grandma tomorrow!

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