Did you hear about the 26-page recipe issued by the Pentagon for MRE-grade chocolate brownies? My father was in the Army for about five years and is even a Vietnam vet, but I am grateful that I didn't have to tolerate such regimentation from him. Now, my mother? A different story. She was so organized and regimented, she was practically an unofficial Staff Sergeant at Arms for the federal government for over 30 years. Even still, the family recipes I have are fairly rustic, most converted from handfuls and smidges by my younger relatives while watching grandparents and great-grandparents make things.
I was catching up on my NPR Food podcast yesterday when I heard a clip from the annual Snoop Dogg/Martha Stewart pre-Christmas bake fest...no sticks, no seeds, no stems. After I recovered from the hysterical laughter, I listened as Penny Karas from Hello Cupcake attempted to bake the Pentagon Brownie according to the very rigid specifications. What they were left with was a virtually inedible brownie that had the lasting power to survive intercontinental trips, heat, cold and all of the other elements US soldiers face while deployed throughout the world. Included in the document are instructions with annoyingly precise detail:
220.127.116.11 Nuts, walnuts, shelled. Shelled walnut pieces shall be of the small piece size classification, shall be of a light color, and shall be U.S. No. 1 of the U.S. Standards for Shelled English Walnuts. A minimum of 90 percent, by weight, of the pieces shall pass through a 4/16-inch diameter round hole screen and not more than 1 percent, by weight, shall pass through a 2/16-inch diameter round hole screen. the shelled walnuts shall be coated with an approved food grade antioxidant and shall be of the latest season's crop.No doubt our beloved D-o-double-g would've been disappointed with the quality of these chocolate confections (as they were not "green" nor were they baked at 420°), but as we're reminded in the comments of the NPR story, "that brownie is one of the most important things within the budget of the DoD. As a veteran of the USARMY infantry, I can tell you that that little bit of chocolaty sunshine was all I had to keep me putting one foot in front of the other."