Arts & Culture

Girl Scouts Celebrate a Sweet Southern Heritage

Today, more than three million young women across 92 countries are Girl Scouts

photo: Girl Scouts in the 1940s, Courtesy of Girl Scouts

“Cookie Money is Camping Money.” That’s just one of the catchphrases Girl Scouts have used over the years to market their cookies, which have become almost as much a cultural phenomenon as the organization itself. The phrase dates to the 1960s, but the Girl Scout legacy dates back much further. On this day more than a century ago, one pioneering Savannah woman started it all.

photo: Courtesy of Girl Scouts; National Archives Catalog

Girl Scouts in the 1960s and 1970s.

On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low, an artist and traveler who split her time between Georgia and England, recruited eighteen girls in her Georgia hometown for the first troop meeting of what would become the Girl Scouts. Low envisioned a program that empowered girls by encouraging self-sufficiency, community service, and leadership—in an era before women could even vote. Young women hiked, swam, camped, and played basketball together, in addition to earning badges for skills as diverse as “child nurse” and “economist.” By 1920, the movement had spread from Savannah to 11 states and the then-territory of Hawaii. Today, more than three million young women across 92 countries are Girl Scouts.

The Girl Scouts’ most delicious tradition can trace its lineage to 1917 with one entrepreneurial group in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The Mistletoe Troop baked cookies and sold them in a local high school cafeteria as a service project. Other troops quickly caught on to the fund-raising possibilities. The first official recipe for a simple sugar cookie came in 1922. Scouts packaged the treats in wax paper bags, sealed them with a sticker, and knocked on doors to sell a dozen for a quarter.

Today, the varieties have expanded beyond those first sugar cookies, and fans of Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas, and Trefoils rejoice each time cookie season rolls around, usually in late winter. In 2015, the Girl Scouts launched a recipe contest for desserts that incorporate the cookies as ingredients. Winning recipes have included Thin Mints Cupcakes, Chocolate Coconut Chantilly Pie with Samoas, and Shortbread Fudge Tiramisu with Thanks-A-Lots.

Southern pecans are the key addition to Michele Kusma’s winning entry in the candies category—Nutty Caramel Turtles with peanut butter Tagalongs (pictured above center). They’re a simple and tasty way to honor the Girl Scouts’ legacy of inventiveness and making good things even better.

Nutty Caramel Turtles
Makes 12

3 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 oz. each)
12 caramels
60 pecan halves
12 Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patties or Tagalongs cookies

Preheat the oven to 250°. Break each chocolate bar into fourths. Place each piece 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Top with 1 caramel.

Bake 5-7 minutes or until caramel just starts to soften. Immediately press 1 pecan half on one side for head; press 4 pecan halves onto each corner for legs. Place 1 Peanut Butter Patties or Tagalongs cookie over the top of each candy, pressing down to secure. Let stand until set.