Homesickness, Brownies & the Maid

A week or so ago I was listening to John Tesh on the radio and he mentioned a study that proves creative activities, such as cooking and baking, lift our spirits and help battle depression. (I couldn’t find that story on Tesh’s website, but I did find this article that says the same thing.)

I believe this based on my own cooking and baking and it brought to mind my next 52 story:

The first time we moved overseas to a foreign country (Peru), I found myself completely out of my element. That wasn’t surprising because so much had changed overnight. New house. New scenery. New country. The money was different. The language was different. The customs were different. Even the seasons had changed. Plus, we suddenly had bodyguards! And a maid!

Marcus with Julio
Marcus and our favorite bodyguard, Julio.

Everything was so unfamiliar and there was so much to get used to, that I couldn’t help feeling homesick. So one day, my friend, Carol, who was also American, and also longing for home, came over with a brilliant idea- to make brownies from scratch together. (And baking in Peru is a very American thing to do!)

Marissa baking chocolate chip cookies in Lima (2)
Marissa baking chocolate chip cookies in Peru, with chocolate chips and brown sugar smuggled in from the states.

I had been given a special cookbook when I first arrived, as a welcome gift from another American. It cleverly contained the same recipes in both English and Spanish, side by side. This was my only cookbook and lucky us, there was a brownie recipe in it. So, we excitedly started gathering all the ingredients on the kitchen table and then we sat down side by side with a mixing bowl and wooden spoon. We had just started to measure out the first ingredients when the phone rang.

Our maid, Rita, with Marcus when he was 2.

There was only one phone in the house and it was all the way down the hall in my bedroom. I figured it was my husband calling to check in on me. So I told Carol I’d be right back and I sprinted out of the kitchen towards the ringing.

Marcus sitting with his preschool class. Remind me to share some funny preschool stories someday. The name of his preschool was, Abraham Lincoln preschool!

I kept the phone conversation with my husband short and sweet so I could quickly get back to Carol and our brownies. But as I dashed back to the kitchen, I spotted Carol sitting dejectedly at the kitchen table, her head propped up on her elbows. She nodded towards my maid, Rita, who was placing the pan of brownies into the heated oven. “At least she let me lick the spoon!” Carol told me in a flat tone. We sat there for a minute in silence. And then we burst out laughing.


The next day I had my tutor explain to Rita that this American woman liked to do her own cooking and baking and we’d have to learn to share the kitchen, which is the maid’s domain in Peru. From that day forward, we shared the cooking, but Rita left the baking to me (although it fascinated her so she’d often watch over my shoulder). I found joy in baking whenever the mood struck me, especially as baking is such a novelty in Peru (and seriously, the Americans there barter with chocolate chips!).


Is cooking and/or baking therapeutic for you? Do you have any funny baking/cooking stories you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear them.

9 thoughts on “Homesickness, Brownies & the Maid

    1. I know! That’s what maids are for! We were her first American family to work for and we broke tradition in how we treated her. For one thing, we insisted she eat dinner with us, family style, instead of waiting on us. I’m sure she was scratching her head a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. PaperPuff

    Good story! I have many baking stories, but one of them was years ago, we were having a birthday party and had made a fancy chocolate cake as part of the desserts. It had a chocolate collar, shaved curls in dark, milk and white chocolate covered the top. My dessert-loving friend pointed out there were no plates left, but I was so busy I kept getting sidetracked and no clean plates appeared. Eventually my friend got fed up waiting and went to get a plate from the kitchen. A while later she was happily telling me how she had helped herself and how yummy the cake was. Her face changed when I told her she was eating it from a cat’s bowl!!

    Liked by 3 people

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