Alumnus sends homemade treat to rooks living in his former room in Alumni Hall
C is for cookies, which are sweeter when they’re free. Thanks to alumnus Fred Breton’s tasty tradition, a pair of Norwich University freshmen received free homemade cookies as a Homecoming treat.
In the fall of 1958, Breton was a rook, and his mother and grandmother would send care packages of cookies and brownies to campus every other week to cheer him. Breton said he would share the stash with his two roommates in Alumni Hall Room 206; one roommate would go to the snack bar for quarts of accompanying milk. All weekend, the trio would gorge as they studied.
Breton didn’t graduate from Norwich; he earned a degree in mathematics and physics from Keene State College and served in the U.S. Army. But he said he always loved and respected Norwich, following the Guiding Values as a way of life, and always felt included in Norwich’s community. When the Class of 1962’s 50th reunion came, for example, the alumnus corralling classmates told him he was welcome to come, graduate or not, Breton said.
“I thought that it was incredibly sweet of him to send us a dessert that he made himself.” Sarah Branit, rook, Norwich University Corps of Cadets
“Whenever someone asked me where I went to college, I always say Norwich,” Breton, who recently turned 80 and lives in Leesburg, Florida, said. “I was at the PX at Fort Bliss (in Texas) some years back, and I was wearing a Norwich jacket. One of the officers on base came up and slapped me on the back so hard he almost knocked me off my feet and asked, ‘When did you go to Norwich?’”
In 1977, on his 15th reunion year, Breton decided to bake a batch of the care package cookies, peanut butter-chocolate chip, to bring to Homecoming. Hazel Fletcher of Winchendon, Massachusetts, originated the recipe, which won a state-level prize in the 1954 national Pillsbury Bake-Off.
Breton said he watched the football game from a grassy spot by the stadium bleachers, retrieved the cookies from an ice chest in his car and delivered them to his old room. He’s followed the same routine every year since.
Breton said his cookie-giving legend sometimes preceded him. About 10 years ago, he visited the room to find its resident rooks out for training. The cadet corporal there gasped in amazement as he took the cookies.
“He said, ‘You’re real,’” Breton recalled.
A different method
With campus closed as a coronavirus pandemic precaution and Homecoming happening virtually, Breton couldn’t bring cookies this year. So, he worked through the Alumni and Commandant’s offices to mail them. His room’s occupants, Norwich’s Alumni and Family Office and one of his old Norwich roommates, Bill Brick, the 1961-62 regimental commander, got batches.
“This is what makes Norwich alums special — staying connected to the school, doing something without wanting recognition,” Alumni and Family Relations Assistant Director Stephanie Snell, who’d helped Breton send this year’s cookies, wrote in an email. “(It’s about) the importance of tradition and wanting to pass down a love for Norwich that will last a lifetime.”
Rooks Sarah Branit and Kate Rice live in Breton’s old room. Earlier this week, Branit said she couldn’t send any cookie pictures because she, her rook siblings and cadre had eaten them all.
“I thought that it was incredibly sweet of him to send us a dessert that he made himself,” Branit, who’s from Chicago and is pursuing a U.S. Marine Corps contact, wrote in an email. “I love cookies. However, I haven’t eaten any for a while, as I was preparing to become more fit and healthy. But I rank them as one of the best I’ve had considering it was peanut butter and chocolate, and I usually don’t eat peanut butter and chocolate.”
If the world looks normal next year and the coronavirus is controlled, Breton said he’ll have his oven hot, his ingredients mixed and his cookie sheets greased.
“I already have it marked out on my calendar,” he said of 2021’s Homecoming dates.
Click here for the complete 2020 Homecoming schedule.
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PEANUT “GOOFY” BARS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Sift dry ingredients together:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. double-acting baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Blend mixture and set aside.
Combine wet ingredients
Melt 1/3 cup shortening (in a double-boiler or microwave), then remove from heat
Add 1 tsp. vanilla
Beat in two eggs, one at a time.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, blending well.
Spread batter into a well-greased 9 inch-by-9 inch-by 2-inch pan.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 to 18 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool slightly.
Using a fork, pierce the bars’ tops several times.
Warm ½ cup peanut butter. Blend in confectioner’s sugar to make a spreadable mixture (amount of sugar will depend on which brand of peanut butter you use).
Spread evenly over baked ingredients.
Allow to cool fully.
Melt 6 to 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate bits with 1 tsp. shortening.
Blend mixture then spread it evenly over peanut butter layer.
Top with chopped peanut pieces.
Cool and serve.