The Joy of Cooking Milhouse

“Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” season 5, episode 1

Every time I see one of those “baby on board” stickers on the back of a car, I sing the Be Sharps song in my head. So I’m excited to finally make a recipe from this season five episode, especially since it’s brownies. Mmm… brownies.

This episode starts at the Springfield Swap Meet, where Skinner finds his prison helmet from Vietnam (#24601), Homer digs through a box of priceless stuff and calls it all junk, Marge tries to sell wishbone necklaces, and Lisa and Bart find an old Be Sharps album. This prompts Homer to tell them about his time as a music star, back in the magical summer of 1985.

Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner, Apu, and Homer do their barbershop quartet act at Moe’s and as Barney throws women’s underwear at them. They go on to perform at the retirement home, jail, and church to cheering crowds, and Homer is eventually approached by an agent. He tells him to ditch Wiggum, and the dejected chief is out of the group.

They hold auditions for his replacement but come up empty handed (although Abe does a pretty swinging rendition of “Old McDonald”). While at Moe’s, they hear Barney’s beautiful singing as he crawls on the bathroom floor looking for his toothpick, and their group is complete. Now the Be Sharps, they write and record “Baby on Board” and it’s a hit. They immediately go on a world tour.

Wiggum is the butt of the joke on late night and he shoots at his TV. The Be Sharps win best barbershop album at The Grammys and attend a swanky Hollywood party, where Homer gets the greatest thrill of his life. He meets George Harrison at a party and excitedly yells “oh my god!” Turns out he’s yelling about a brownie. George points him to a “big pile of them” and Homer proceeds to eat a crazy amount of brownies. “What a nice fellow.”

Homer misses his family while out on tour and Marge tries to fill the void by making a fake father for the kids out of junk. It pops and falls apart and terrifies them. But soon the Be Sharps are out of vogue, recording commercial jingles as Barney branches off to do conceptual music with a Yoko Ono type. She orders a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat and Moe serves it immediately, like he just has that lying around.

Homer goes back to the plant to take over for his replacement, a chicken named Queenie that he apparently ate. We’re back in the present, and Homer ends his story with “I’ll never forget my 5 1/2 weeks at the top.”

He calls the other members for an impromptu reunion on Moe’s rooftop. They steal all the attention from the Human Fly (“I stayed up all night dying my underwear!”), and George Harrison drives by and declares “it’s been done.”

The big pile of brownies that Homer scarfs is perfect for holiday parties, office or school functions, or giving as gifts. I used a simple, one-bowl recipe that’s fudgey and chocolatey and delish. You can always halve this recipe if you don’t want to make a big pile (but you should make a big pile).

Big Pile of Brownies
adapted from King Arthur Flour
Serves 30

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
6 eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini or regular)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease two 9-inch square pans.
  2. Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Whisk together. Add the wet ingredients and mix until blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Add an equal amount of batter to each pan. Bake for 24-30 minutes, or until the edges just start to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs but not wet batter (test a few places, since you might end up poking a melted chocolate chip).
  4. Let cool completely. Slice into squares, pile onto a serving dish, and serve to a hungry Homer.
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