by Todd DePastino

Military brownie

(YouTube screenshot Peter von Panda)

Every once in a while, you’re reminded that the US military is, among other things, the world’s largest bureaucracy. I ran across this 26-page brownie recipe first published in 1987, revised in 1990, and updated again in 2003. It’s called “Brownie, Dessert #MIL-C-44072C,” and you gotta read it to believe it. If walnuts are used, 90% of them should be able to “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.” And Section of the recipe reminds you that “If necessary, each ingredient shall be examined organoleptically.” Organoleptically”? Oh, that means you should taste it.

It’s easy, of course, to lampoon the DoD’s soul-crushing tendency to take the fun out of everything, including such a fun family past time as brownie baking. I mean, what more Gestalt experience is there than throwing together disparate ingredients to create something ineffably more than the sum of its parts?

26-page recipe Military brownie in packaging


But, in its article on “Mil-Spec Brownies,” Off Grid Magazine reminds us why such mind-numbing attention to trifling detail is a necessary evil of military life. “Love them or hate them, these bureaucratic regulations eliminate minuscule variations in quality, and prevent corner-cutting that might cost the lives of military personnel.”

That’s especially true when it comes to the provision of food to troops. The US Army was hampered through the 19th century by sutlers and victualers who passed off spoiled meat, diluted flour, and other adulterated foodstuffs to hungry soldiers.

“An Army marches on its stomach,” said Napoleon (allegedly). If that’s true, then a 26-page recipe for brownies may be a price you pay for keeping an Army on the march.