This article has no collectable information but something historical for sure to any soldier, especially World War II veterans.
Military chow has a lasting, often lousy reputation. Particularly before and during World War II it was less than a gourmet enjoyment.
Tasty treats. Food and stomach has been stated as what an army travels on.
However, to begin a day with crumbled tasteless crackers mixed with warm water, as many front-line soldiers did in Europe, does not promise happy results.
Another government delight was Spam, fried and overdone. It was monotonous, especially with powdered overfried or burnt dried eggs and bread you could use for new soles on your boots.
The Spam in the South Pacific came from Australia, not made with beef but greasy mutton. Since World War II chow has improved somewhat – better than some restaurants but not as good as fine establishments.
However, a person has to realize that very extra care could not be exercised in the preparation of any dish when feeding several hundred or more in a production line type of service.
No one egg at a time, one bowl of bean soup separately, one loaf of bread individually and so on. Bean soup in a 20 or more gallon pot, dried eggs made slightly palatable for examples.
Best fed. At Barksdale Field in Shreveport, La., the best fed were the cooks and servers.
German prisoners of war were always smiling when the soldiers were served and looking at the cold heart cuts, cold potatoes and dry hard crust bread plus cold coffee. The only heated foods were from the daily hot weather most of the time.
These cooks and other conflicts became the cooks of restaurants and cooking schools after discharge.
War brought to the attention of soldiers and service cooks the worldwide cuisine we now experience as common place, such as pizzas, kebabs, stroganoff and chop suey.
Even other areas of the United States introduced clam chowder and Creole rice.
Prior to World War II, military food had a reputation of “terrible.”
During the American Revolution, each colony was responsible for feeding its own militia, but numbers of service men out grew this ability and the Congress ordered the army to feed itself.
Beef, beans, peas, spruce beer and salted fish were, in the beginning, some of the fare in 1775, such as beef and vegetables was not always available. The absence of meat, vegetables and milk became commonplace in the army until the Spanish American War of 1898.
Food safety. As is true of any situation when in a hurry anything can go awry.
The meat was not inspected or preserved properly, canned foods due to soldering closed was also not sterilized or sealed thoroughly. Food disease and sickness was prevalent.
The public became aroused and demands for the enforcement of regulations and a re-evaluation of food for the military was established. During World War II improved food and service occurred.
Standard foods such as beef, canned goods, beans, canned milk, soups, dairy products, spices, candy and the ever present potatoes were available to some of the troops but not front line – that area always made do.
By the end of the war, American troops were, on average, the best fed army in the world, so the saying goes.
Brunt of jokes. Many jokes have been told concerning World War II chow. Spam, a combination of pork, especially the shoulder meats and ham, named the “ham that didn’t pass the physical.”
Also the K ration a so-called nutritional ration for soldiers.
Considering that these two items are the brunt of World War II chow jokes, there were supposedly up to 650 different recipes in the army cuisine.
An important occurrence did occur: new methods of preserving and shipping foods was developed.
My brother and brother-in-laws served some time in service as cooks and they related to me what they were advised on “a cook without imagination is little better than an ordinary laborer.”
It is that little pinch of spices, an attractive topping on a salad, nice frosting on a cake that makes a difference.
Today’s menu of what is served via cook house, mess hall or field rations is quite varied and may not be as good as Mom’s cooking, but more pleasant than previous service people had to put up with at times.