Photo: foodiesathome.com, Flickr
Ah, brownies, a simple, classic, easy-to-bake dessert -- unless, of course, you are a Pentagon employee, in which case you follow a 26-page recipe to make them. That's right: twenty-six. As CBS News so wittily pointed out, these are people who take their desserts almost as seriously as war.
The recipe -- or rather, the formula -- covers every possible detail, actual or hypothetical. There is no room for creative interpretation here. For example, the size: That would be precisely 3.5 by 2.5 by 5/8ths of an inch per brownie. The ingredients list, too, is very, very specific -- measurements are listed in parts per weight, which is more exacting than, say, cups or tablespoons. Even the moisture content of the finished product is specified (that would be not more than 8.0 percent -- for an "uncoated" brownie).
When NPR's Guy Raz spoke to the Pentagon about their thorough approach to baked goods, Jeremy Whitsitt, speaking for the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, explained that these brownies are not intended for ordinary circumstances. They are, in fact, heading into war zones. "One thing we like to say is, 'What would happen if you cooked a meal, stored it in a stifling hot warehouse, dropped it out of an airplane, dragged it through the mud, left it out with bugs and vermin, and ate it three years later?'"
Of course, if these are the conditions you're dealing with, perhaps a delicious brownie is not your number-one priority. Even so, Raz tasted one of the brownies in the name of journalism -- and declared them "not so good: dry, crumbly and dense." But, he conceded, "they did taste as if they might last quite a while if boxed up and shipped to a war zone."