Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lost Camera, Pearl Harbor Day, and M&M Cookies

So I have some good news, and I have some bad news.

The good news is I'm back with another new post! The bad news is I lost my camera at some point last weekend, and it's becoming increasingly obvious that it isn't going to find its way back to me. I'm pretty upset about it, especially because I lost some pictures of a chocolate demonstration at the American History Museum with Heritage Chocolate! It was a really neat demonstration and the guys running it were very friendly, and really excited to hear I was a food blogger who had featured their products on my blog before. One of them was even willing to take a picture with Felicity! I wish I had the pictures to share with you guys, but unfortunately I think it's now in the possession of a Lyft driver or some lucky tourist at the American History Museum.

(I'm trying to keep up a brave face about this for the sake of keeping this light, but I'm - understandably, I hope - really, really upset about it.)

Thanks to my phone's camera and a backlog of posts I'm sitting on, there should still be new content between now and whenever I'm able to get my hands on a replacement. I hope you all don't mind a slight dip in image quality in the mean time, because I think it's going to drive me a little crazy.

Anyway, what have I been up to?

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, and I hiked down to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall for a commemoration hosted by the Friends of the World War II Memorial. The World War II Memorial is a really controversial monument on the mall, but I have to admit I'm fond of it, and it did make a good staging ground for an event like this.

I brought mini Molly with me, but didn't wind up taking too many pictures with her. John McCain was the keynotes speaker, there was a surprise appearance by Mike Pence - which did kind of change the tone of the ceremony for me personally, although I will say he was quiet and classy, as was the crowd - and one of FDR's great great grandchildren read highlights from his Day of Infamy speech.

But the real highlight was the veterans, who were each personally introduced with a short bio about their service during and after the war, and then were presented by a handmade quilt sewn by a local organization. There were about seven Pearl Harbor survivors at the ceremony, but about twenty vets in all, so that's a lot of quilts!

Overall, it was a really nice ceremony and I was glad to have the chance to go. Of course, I'm bummed I wasn't in Hawaii, or at the National WWII Museum, but this is more than what I could have done back home for the anniversary, and considering this is the last big number anniversary that's likely to have a large veteran turn out, I really felt like I had to do something, you know what I mean?

I've also been swamped with end of semester projects, but have been finding some time to sit down and bake stuff to share with members of my cohort and my professors. It's good to have another large audience to share baked goods with because it's stopping me from eating it all myself, and it's nice to get feedback on new recipes.

I'm not going to say that this is strictly a Pearl Harbor inspired recipe, because I often feel like featuring anniversaries of tragedies with a food post is kind of... trivializing it? But it's been a long time since I've posted anything that's actually baking related, and it's the last week of classes, so I'm running out of opportunities to have food eaten by a big audience, plus I feel weird posting things on the blog without at least vaguely mentioning food somewhere.

I've also been meaning to make M&M cookies for a while, because M&M's are also celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. I guess it's especially appropriate to be posting about them now because they and Heritage Chocolate are both Mars properties, so I'm sort of representing the company's chocolate history, even without my SD card and camera.

And even though I just said this wasn't a Pearl Harbor Day themed recipe necessarily, since it was Pearl Harbor Day when I made them, I let Sue host the post because she's from Honolulu, Hawaii in 1942 and doesn't get to be on the blog often what with Molly and Emily hogging all the 40's recipes.

According to Great Moments in Chocolate History, a book I've cited before, M&M's were created after Forrest Mars - the son of the Mars candy company - saw soldiers eating little balls of chocolate coated in a sugar shell during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's. The coating helps prevent the chocolate from melting. (The slogan "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands" came much later, though! According to the book, it was first used in 1954.)

When Mars returned to the United States, he collaborated with the Hersey Company's chief executive's son Bruce Murrie to develop their own product. The name M&M's refers to their names, Mars and Murrie. M&Ms were included in soldier's rations during World War II and became very popular with the general public when they returned home.

Although we're used to the colors being red, brown, yellow, orange, green and blue, the original colors were brown, red, yellow, green and violet. They've changed colors more than once over the years, with blue being the most recent permanent addition in 1995. For a while, tan replaced violent, and orange replaced red after a food dye scare in the 70's.

I was on the hunt for a recipe that would have a nice soft cookie base, and so Pinch of Yum's Big Soft M&M Cookies sounded just about perfect. It's a really simple cookie recipe with standard ingredients: 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 of a cup of white sugar, 1 cup of vegetable shortening, 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla get blended together, and then 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt are added in. The dough should be stiff and not wet, so it's recommended you add a couple extra tablespoons if it feels like your batter is getting too wet. Then, 1 1/2 cups of M&M's get added, and you're ready to get baking.

The dough is firm enough without refrigerating that you can roll the cookies into balls by hand immediately. The recipe instructs you to pat these down a little and then add extra M&M's on top for appearances sake. These bake in the oven for eight to ten minutes at 350 degrees, but I had to leave mine in for a little longer because they just weren't cooking all the way through. I think that's just my oven, though.

You're left with about two dozen soft, tasty cookies!

Generally speaking, I tend not to love desserts with a shortening base versus butter. I think it leaves sort of a bitter aftertaste in your mouth sometimes, and cookies especially sometimes taste store bought versus home made when you use it. I did get that with these a little bit, but the texture of the cookie was really great, and the dough was fun to snack on, too.

I brought them to class tonight and people seemed to really like them, which is a good and bad thing. Good, in that people liked what I made and gave positive reviews for the blog so you know to make this recipe too, and bad because I only have five cookies left. I did also make my customary "it's a significant day in World War II history so let's bake something" chocolate war cake as well, and that was another huge success!

So that's what I've been up to: losing my camera, attending World War II commemorations, and baking 40's themed recipes, as well as going to work and writing a lot of papers. I hope you enjoyed seeing pictures from the Washington, DC contribution to the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Commemoration, and learned something fun about one of the most popular American candies.

Hope you've all been keeping out of trouble too!


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your camera!

    Those cookies look delicious though - and your photos from the ceremony are making me seriously miss DC!

    1. Hope you can come back to visit! I've really been enjoying living here and will be sad when I have to move.

  2. Loved learning about the history of M & M's! So sorry to hear about your camera though, I would be devastated.

    1. Yeah, I'm pretty upset about it. Luckily I've still got my phone camera and my dad is willing to lend me a smaller digital camera until I can get a new one, but I miss it. :(

  3. So sorry to hear about your camera. I had no idea of M&Ms original colors. I'd love to see violet make a comeback.

    It's tough to think about how long ago Pearl Harbor became globally significant. It seems we've learned little about politics and bullying since then as a species. Thank Goodness for cookies and those who fought and continue to fight for freedom.

    1. That definitely makes going to ceremonies like this difficult, honestly, especially while standing like a hundred feet away from a guy who believes in conversion therapy. :\ But I'm still glad I went because I wanted to do something to honor the people who were actually involved in the attack.