Chicago 1893 World Expo: Birth of the Brownie: December 9, National Brownie Day invites us to delight in one of America’s beloved treats. Imagine relishing a rich brownie, its decadence complemented by warm coffee on a cold winter day or enjoying it as you wander through a bustling world fair
Each bite of this sophisticated treat tells a tale of resilience and ingenuity. The brownie embodies the indomitable spirit of the Lady Managers, instrumental in Chicago’s rebirth and women’s rights expansion after the Great Chicago Fires of 1871. It stands as a tribute to their tenacity and elegance in adversity, turning obstacles into a chance for culinary innovation. So, as you savor a brownie with your coffee, remember: you’re not just enjoying a dessert; you’re partaking in a celebration of a city’s unyielding spirit that triumphantly rose to craft something beautiful and delightful.
1893 World Expo: The Birth of the Brownie: A Chicago Story
In the heart of Chicago, specifically at the Palmer House hotel, the story of the brownie began. Back in 1893, Bertha Palmer, a prominent Chicago socialite and wife of the Palmer House Luxury hotel owned by her husband Potter Palmer.
This day signifies more than the allure of brownies. It pays homage to a culinary invention embedded in Chicago’s dynamic history. Let’s travel back to its origin: the Palmer House hotel‘s inventive kitchen. Amid Chicago’s vibrant ethos of overcoming challenges and driving innovation, the brownie first emerged.
Chicago Board of Lady Managers
The World Expo had to be an innovative event showing the rebirth of the city. In 1891, Bertha Palmer, chairwoman of the Columbian Exposition’s Board of Lady Managers. Lead the creation of a pavilion to celebrate the accomplishments of women around the world. They selected Sophia G. Hayden, the first woman graduate of MIT’s school of architecture, awarding her commission to create the building.
Chicago 1893 World Expo: Birth of the Brownie: Culinary Distinction
Bertha asked the Palmer House pastry chef for a dessert with innovation. Distinct and elegant, suitable for ladies attending the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. The requirements of elegance, portability, and transforming the tradition box lunch fare, created an experience, that allowed exposition visitors to relish a sweet treat while marveling at the exposition’s vast array of displays and exhibits.
The World’s Columbian Exposition creative culinary team at the hotel sought to concoct a unique, portable treat. They aimed to create something that could be easily enjoyed on the move, unlike the common cookies of that era.
A cake-like delicacy small enough to be included in boxed lunches, but richly elegant as the Palmer House itself. The result was the Palmer House Brownie with walnuts and an apricot glaze. The modern Palmer House Hotel serves a dessert to patrons made from the same recipe. The name was given to the dessert sometime after 1893 but was not used by cookbooks or journals at the time.
Preserving a Culinary Legacy: Chicago 1893 World Expo: Birth of the Brownie
The Palmer House has done more than just claim its place in culinary history. It has diligently preserved this important piece of its heritage. Konstantine “Gus” Drosos, the general manager, proudly asserts that the hotel still possesses the original brownie recipe, faithfully recreating this historic dessert.
Scott Courley, the current executive chef of the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, shares that the goal was to design a dessert suitable for inclusion in a box lunch. This allowed exposition visitors to relish a sweet treat while marveling at the exposition’s vast array of displays and exhibits. Their dedication to preserving the original recipe’s authenticity means each Palmer House brownie bite is not merely a chocolate indulgence but a journey through history.
Savoring a Piece of History: Chicago 1893 World Expo: Birth of the Brownie
This National Brownie Day, why not celebrate by baking your own Palmer House Brownie Recipe or, if in Chicago, visiting the Palmer House to experience the original? Each bite is an acknowledgment of Chicago’s innovative spirit and a reminder of how a simple quest for a portable dessert resulted in an everlasting gastronomic delight.
Let’s celebrate National Brownie Day, the heart of Chicago resilience, and the Board of Lady Managers by honoring this delicious tradition that originated in the heart of Chicago, a sweet symbol of the city’s significant contributions to America’s culinary heritage.
The Chicago Loop Alliance shares the Original Palmer House Recipes with 2 iconic recipe variations, the original and the more spirited Version. The first American “brownie” was referenced in the Sears Roebuck Catalog in 1898.
The original Palmer House Kitchen recipe is 130 years old and still one of the hotel’s most popular confections. Brownies have taken many forms, but the Palmer House original recipe’s simplicity and elegance stand as a testament to the brownie’s enduring appeal.
Other Resources: Chicago 1893 World Expo: Birth of the Brownie
- American Experience- The Palmers (PBS)
- Celebrate Christmas At Chicago Palmer House Hilton | Green Vacation Deals
- The brownie, a Chicago creation, marks 130 years: ‘It is delicious’ (msn.com)
- The Palmer House Brownie Recipe – The Palmer House Hilton (palmerhousehiltonhotel.com)