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If you were to ask most people to describe me, I think one of the first adjectives they’d use is independent. In the literal sense, I am single, live alone and have no kids or pets. Very independent. In compliance with the larger meaning of the word, I don’t often require the help of others, have and show a deep desire for freedom and rarely look to others’ opinions for guidance in conduct.

Sometimes my independence is a good thing; I’m very proud of the fact that in most situations, I can rely on myself. I can stitch a hem, operate a weed wacker, drive a stick shift, throw a mean left hook, identify a crescent wrench, and bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. But there are times when being a self-governing island creates a feeling of isolation and indifference. And as difficult as it is for me to admit, it can also make me feel less…like a woman.

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Since settling down in Ireland, that sense of inadequacy has faded thanks to the chivalrous nature of Irish men . While they may have a reputation for being drunken louts a bit much at times, they can be quite gracious otherwise. For example, my male friends always get up and allow us girls to take their seats when we are at a pub or party; I have not once witnessed one of my guy friends sitting down when a woman is standing. They’re quick to open doors and buy rounds and bring in the coal (for the fireplace) and perform heavy lifting when required. Their chivalry is instinctual; rarely do they need to be asked to assist in such matters.

My group of friends includes a number of guys, and though they have jobs and girlfriends and kids and social lives they’ve been incredibly kind and helpful to me. One put together a book shelf that was way too awkward for me to deal with; another patiently endured a shopping trip for home goods only to carry all my heavy purchases to and from the car; yet another took me car shopping (which I’m sure he can attest was exhausting at times!) and negotiated a much better deal than I ever could have. I observe many of the men in town carry out random acts of chivalry on a daily basis. Little do they realize that these small and seemingly insignificant gestures actually mean a lot.


There’s a lot of emphasis on being an independent woman, especially in a place like Los Angeles where I’m from. But it’s also important to acknowledge that sometimes, nothing compares to the feeling of being treated like a woman, and part of that includes accepting help from a man. For the past several years I’ve been so busy exerting my self-sufficiency that I’ve forgotten what that’s like. I’m grateful to the chivalrous men of this small town for helping me to remember.

I made these Tuxedo Brownies for my well-mannered friends, who [dutifully] volunteered for the photos above. Thanks to Trevor, Earnan and Niall for being such good sports!

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Tuxedo Brownies
(Makes about 15)

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups of chopped milk chocolate (or chocolate chips)

Ganache Topping
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Tuxedo Topping
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon heavy cream
Chocolate sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean and stir to combine. Pour the butter mixture into a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

Stir in the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated. Stir in the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour until just combined, then add the chopped chocolate pieces. Pour into a 9×13 baking pan, lined with tinfoil, and bake for 30-35 minutes.

While the brownies bake, make the ganache. Simply melt the dark chocolate and heavy cream together in a saucepan over low heat. If the mixture is too thick, add more heavy cream. In another saucepan, do the same thing with the white chocolate and heavy cream, also adding more cream for a thinner consistency.

Remove the brownies from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Using a small cookie cutter, cut rounds out of the brownies and set on a cooling rack over paper towels. Spoon the dark chocolate ganache over each brownie round, allowing it to drip down the sides. Then drizzle with the white chocolate mixture and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles. Refrigerate to let cool.