For close to 30 years – until she passed away at much too young an age – Lucille Brown lived down the street from us on 46th Avenue.

Her kids were a bit older than us and they were already pretty established in the neighborhood when we moved in in 1958.  It was a great neighborhood – tons of kids, 2 blocks from the beach and the zoo, and only a dozen blocks to Golden Gate Park.  It was a neighborhood where everyone knew everyone.  A neighborhood of moms who any one at any time could (and would!) smack a kid upside the head for acting up.

We had a lot of unrestricted freedom.  Back in those pre-cell phone days, we just left the house with a vague “we’re going to ride our bikes” or some such thing and be gone for hours and hours.

People say that it was a different world and to some extent I agree – but for different reasons.  Our parents didn’t hover over us, make play dates, or obsess over how popular we were – or weren’t.  Our parents let us be kids while allowing us to grow up. We were street-smart, knew not to get into cars with strangers, and more importantly, knew we were not the center of the universe. Our parents taught us to be independent by allowing us to be independent.

Our parents even said NO to us.

Lucille was one of the neighborhood parents who kids could talk to.  If someone was having an issue with their parents – and all kids had issues with their parents at some point – you could talk to her about it.  99.999 times out of 100 she would agree with the parent – but she was really good at explaining things – or giving us ideas on how to change a parents mind.

Lucille was overweight, smoked like a chimney, was not the world’s greatest housekeeper, but besides being one of the more favorite moms – was a great cook.

And one of her better deserts was her cheese cake.  She gave the recipe freely to anyone who wanted it and I have the copy she gave my mom probably 50 years ago.

25 or so years ago I took her recipe and played with it and made a more dense version.  It was easy to make and quite good – if I do say so m’self.  I always called it a variation on Lucille’s and a recipe I found in Bon Appetit.

And I pretty much forgot about Lucille’s original.

Until this past Friday.

I was looking through a ridiculous folder of recipes I’ll probably never make but keep anyway – when Lucille’s original recipe came fluttering out.

The minute I looked at it I knew I had to make it.  It was funny.  All of the above and more came flooding back to me.  My entire childhood passed before my cheese cake-starved eyes.

The only thing I changed was the baking time.  She said 35 minutes, but I thought it way too loose and kept it in for 45.  I probably could have let it go for 50, but it worked.  It’s going to seem more loose than you’re probably used to.  Just make sure to make it at least a day in advance so it has a minimum of 24 hours to set.

Lucille’s Cheese Cake


  • 2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2/3 cup melted butter
  • 6 tbsp sugar

Mix all ingredients well.  Pack into 10″ spring form pan bringing it up on sides.  Place in refrigerator while preparing filling.


  • 3 8oz pkgs cream cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanuilla


  • 2 cups sour cream
  • sugar, to taste
  • vanilla

To make

Cream cheese with sugar.  Add unbeaten eggs.  Mix well.  Add unwhipped cream.  Stir in vanilla.

Pour into graham cracker crust.  Bake at 350° for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool on rack for 5 minutes.  Then put on sour cream topping.

Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Thanks Lucille!

For everything.