broughton brownies.

I bought a new-used cookbook a few months back, when we were checking out a thrift store that happened to be having a book sale. It was the Capitol Cook Book, distributed by the James T. Broyhill for Senator campaign. Back in 1986, a furniture heir was running to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate. He'd been a representative of the 10th district for twenty-some years before being appointed by the governor to fill a Senate seat vacated by a guy who died. Then he had to actually get elected to the Senate seat, which he did not, and thus ended the political career of James T. Broyhill.
Yeah, that's all pretty boring. EXCEPT. I happened to have grown up in North Carolina's 10th district. More specifically, I share a hometown with the Broyhills. Lenoir is not much of a place, but we had furniture factories.

In the course of his Senate campaign, Jim Broyhill released a cookbook. I guess he gave them out at fundraising events. According to the excerpt on the back cover, there was a previous edition of the Capitol Cook Book, perhaps made during one of his earlier congressional campaigns. I dearly wish I had a copy of that earlier book, but surely any existing copies are going for millions on eBay are rotting in some basement in the 10th district. Also according to the back cover, the "booklet was authorized by and printed at the expense of the Jim Broyhill For Senate Campaign."
Pretty much everything you see in the secondhand market feels like fate, but it was pretty weird that I, a woman from Lenoir, happened to find a twenty-six-year-old Broyhill campaign cookbook in a Raleigh thrift store. Of all the people who come through that thrift store, how many had come from the 10th district?

So I paid a quarter for it, just to look through it (actually, I looked through it at the store, clutched it to my chest, and said "I MUST HAVE IT."). The first section is mostly Broyhill family recipes. And then the rest of the book is full of recipes supplied from various politicians. I found this part hilarious, even though I was annoyed that the recipes were credited to "Representative and Mrs." You know what? I bet Pat Roberts has never made a pumpkin chiffon pie in his life, so we might as well give credit to his unnamed Missus (I looked it up - her name is Franki).

I do not recognize all the names, though I suspect they are probably mostly Republicans. You can make the Secretary and Mrs. Caspar Weinberger's Apple Rum Cake or Congressman and Mrs. Trent Lott's Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole. While Strom Thurmond the man might make me cringe, his (and his Mrs.) recipe for barbeque sauce looks pretty tasty. The last couple of pages even have recipes courtesy of the Reagans. I intend to make the Gipper's Mac and Cheese, because, well, why wouldn't I? The recipes are mostly pretty simple and a lot of them sound good.

I was nearing the end of the book when I came across something that I instantly knew I needed to make: Broughton Brownies. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Just like I was one of the few people in Raleigh that would have any interest in James T. Broyhill's campaign cookbook, the people who might get a kick out of Broughton Brownies have to come from a specific place, say around the 10th district.

Needham Broughton was a prominent North Carolina businessman in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He gave the state a lot of money, so he has a high school in Raleigh named after him. His nephew, J. Melville Broughton, the 60th Governor of North Carolina, was the namesake of Broughton Hospital, located in Morganton, North Carolina (in the 10th district!). That's nice, isn't it? Had a hospital named after him.

See, Broughton Hospital is a mental institution. We can all agree that it's not very nice to poke fun at mental illness, you can bet your britches that little kids growing up anywhere near Morganton used Broughton Hospital in their insults. You know, yo mamma so crazy she had you at Broughton Hospital. Or something, I never was very good at those kinds of jokes.

At some point in high school, I met some girls from Raleigh, and they talked very casually about how they went to Broughton. Of course, they meant the high school in the nice part of town. But I didn't know that. I was amazed that not only does the loony bin apparently have a high school attached to it, the kids that go there don't even know enough to be ashamed of going there.

I made Broughton Brownies for an office potluck. I did not tell anyone where I got the recipe, because A.) it would require too much explaining, and B.) it would ruin the fun I had watching them all eat asylum brownies. They had nuts in them, too! GET IT?

The recipe makes a dense and dry marbled brownie. They're not bad. I imagine that if I had to spend some time in Broughton Hospital, I would develop a complicated relationship with such delicious symbols of my incarceration and mental instability. Josh went on and on about how they were no good, because they did not have nearly enough chocolate in them. He did this while shovelling them into his mouth. Once I pointed out that he had eaten them all, he revised his statement to say that they were not actually brownies. I'm okay with that explanation. It would make sense to me that Broughton Brownies are not actually brownies. They just think they are.



M. C. Pearson said...

I am a baker at Sweet Things, a new bakery in Morganton, NC. One of my customers came in asking if I made Broughton Brownies. I hadn't heard of them, but I told her that I'd look it up. I googled them, and lo and behold, I found your post. Love it! So hilarious! I've printed the recipe and plan to make them soon. I will for sure call them their name...I may have to add that there are nuts in it. Ha!

Sandra said...

How wonderful! I'm so proud that I was a part of continuing this excellent 10th district tradition!

I wonder where your customer had heard of them? Maybe better not to ask...

Anonymous said...

I was looking up this recipe because I have been feeling nostalgic. Low and behold I came upon this post. You see as a seventeen year old girl I worked at Broughton State Hospital in Morganton NC.The year was 1977. My Whole family was employed there, My Father, Mother, Brother and myself . My Father was employed in the main kitchen, my Mother was in the female dietary kitchen (known as F2) , My brother was employed in communications and I was employed part-time in the female dietary (known as F1). Ms. Ruby Hooper was the head dietician, Oh my... Ms. Hooper ran a top rate dietary service and I am not kidding!!! It was always the "Talk of the campus" that Broughton Brownies were on the menu. We had the main cafeteria and were offered our meals at a discount and it was FABULOUS FOOD. Ms. Hooper ensured that the whole dietary system was clean , organized and very aesthetic to the palate. The beauty of the brownies were they were not "LOADED" with chocolate. Ms. Hooper preached "You are what you eat" so therefore she always was sparing with the sweets in the diet. Oh how I now miss my Mother making these brownies for us on cold winter days. My family all have passed as Ms. Hooper but the memories remain with me of all my family memories on the campus at Broughton and those delicious Broughton Brownies . Deb Riddle

Sandra said...

I was really glad to read more about Ms. Hooper - she sounds like quite a lady. Thanks so much for telling your story!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in another time when everyone looked after mothers. My mom had to take me to work with her when I was little and she worked in dietary. She worked at an institution that served food from Broughton. She would sneak one of these brownies to eat. They were the best I have ever had since and I am 46 yrs old

Barbara Kennell said...

I worked for 30 years at Western Carolina Center now known as J Iverson Riddle Developmentalk Center. Years ago our food was cooked at Broughton Hospital and trucked over for the Centerstore residents. Usually once a week they sent Broughton Brownies and that was the first time I had ever had them. Ms. I've you was over the bakery at Broughtons and Ruby Hooper was over all of Dietary. Back then they always sent extra food but always on Brownie day staff would split a extra Brownie 4 ways just getting a bite. I have been retired now for sometime but will always remember Broughton Brownies. BK Morganton