By Danielle DeSimone

Sometimes, in moments of crisis, baking is more than just a way to pass the time, or a way to relieve stress by indulging in a few dozen cookies. Sometimes, baking can be that reminder of home, a connection to others or – in this case – a moment of hope in the shape of a rainbow cookie.

Now, more than ever, military families around the world need our support as they navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic with the added stress of daily military life. This week, that support came in the shape of some sugar cookie dough, royal frosting and a connection between Martha Stewart and the military community that sacrifices so much for us all, every single day.

Martha Stewart Brings Virtual Baking to the Military

Stewart, a longtime icon of American cooking, entertaining and homemaking, joined the USO this week for a Facebook live video event in which she guided viewers through the step-by-step process of creating rainbow sugar cookies.

“The USO is such an important organization offering a lot of solidarity to our Armed Forces all over the world,” Stewart said. “So, I thought I would make the symbol of the rainbow in a sugar cookie.”

Martha Stewart shows military families, tuning in from all around the world, how to decorate sugar cookies with rainbow-colored icing and decorations. | Photo credit USO Photo

Stewart’s choice of cookie was important – rainbows have become a symbol of hope throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for children, who have been decorating posters with rainbows and hanging them on windows and balconies all around the world to bolster courage in the wake of the virus.

“I’m just an optimist,” Stewart said. “And really hope you all will take out your baking tools and bake some cookies.”

As Stewart provided viewers with a tour around her kitchen on her farm in Bedford, New York, she showed the hundreds of military families watching at home not only how to make the colorful cookies, but also how to make ingredients stretch in a time when many are avoiding the grocery store.

Stewart shared that adding a bit of cognac to the cookie dough makes the cookies last longer without going stale, and that bakers can easily purchase and use meringue powder instead of raw egg whites to make frosting, so that limited egg supplies do not have to be used up for baking projects.

Service members, military spouses and even military children from all around the globe chimed in throughout the video, asking questions about Stewart’s baking process and for tips on how to keep children entertained. Stewart was sympathetic, explaining that she also has two grandchildren who – much like children all around the world – are struggling with stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines.

“I hope you are all doing okay,” Stewart said. “I know it’s very hard to be sequestered in a single place for a long period of time, but there are so many things that one can do to keep busy.”

She suggested that aside from baking and cooking, military families should also try their hand at art projects and stay active outside as safely as they can.

The Importance of Time Together

Baking cookies on Facebook may seem like a small gesture considering the stress and challenges of navigating military life in the middle of a global pandemic. However, these small moments can make all the difference. When celebrities take time out of their day to reach out directly to the military community, it not only distracts our military members from the stress of daily military life and their duties, but also boosts morale by reminding them that they are valued and not forgotten.

Stewart herself understands the importance of the military community. Her father served in the U.S. Cavalry, her brother was a helicopter rescue pilot who served in Vietnam and her uncle was an airplane mechanic in the Navy. She has also visited other military bases and installations, dedicating time to military families.

The Facebook Live video with Martha Stewart offered service members, military spouses and military children a chance to learn how to spend quality time together in the kitchen. | Photo credit USO Photo

As many branches of the U.S. military are stepping up to serve their communities on the front lines of the coronavirus, Stewart emphasized the importance of helping – in any way possible – the health workers and others who are “fighting a war against an invisible virus.”

As she carefully decorated bright, rainbow cookies as symbols of hope, Stewart encouraged military families to stay strong through the challenges of the pandemic and the stress of single parenting, or 24/7 parenting, by focusing on one another.

“Be proud of the work you do as mothers, fathers and educators of children. That work is very important,” Stewart said. “Make the best of your time at home together … it’s a real hard time for all of us but make the best of it.”