Cheeseburger Gothic

"Moisture-wicking socks, digital camouflage, and caffeinated meat."

Posted June 3, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

I've been buried by paper work today. Actual paper work, thanks to the tax office. So it's been quiet around here. I've just filed tomorrow's rather long Blunty, which required a couple of hours research, and in ditzing about looking for stuff to blog about here tomorrow I came across this really lovely piece in the Atlantic. A real ode to the army cook. Well worth reading the whole thing at the end of the link:

I don't know what goes into the job of Army cook. I don't know the baseline for success, nor what failure would look like, aside from food poisoning. Observationally: Cooks seem to put 10 or so basic meals into rotation, changing up the sides on occasion, and incorporating whatever new item is sent from wherever it is the Defense Department finds food. (Boxes are marked with labels as "Pork, imitation, pre-formed" or some such.) In other words, no Army cook ever had an aneurysm from thinking too hard about his or her job.

But John seemed to come close. Watching him, he seemed like the kind of guy who wanted to do something big, something meaningful, but was worried about the consequences of even asking for permission. The start of his reign as midnight cook involved reheating lunches and dinners that weren't appetizing even when they were fresh. It was obvious this pained him, and next to the giant ashtray, he talked a lot about this chili he wanted to cook. It was a family recipe. He talked about the ingredients, and about scaling the recipe for a company-sized crowd and how great the response would be.

His enthusiasm seemed weird, and borderline delusional. When finally he worked up the courage to ask for permission, and later received it, all anyone heard about for what seemed like weeks was this chili he had planned... When the big night finally came, two things struck me: A lot of people showed up for midnight chow, and the chili was really, really good.

6 Responses to ‘"Moisture-wicking socks, digital camouflage, and caffeinated meat."’

tqft would have you know...

Posted June 3, 2013

I could go a bowl of chilli right about now.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted June 3, 2013

I really liked the comment "Soldiers in World War I would have really enjoyed antibiotics"

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Guru Bob mutters...

Posted June 3, 2013

Caffeinated meat could change my life, both essential major food groups in one chewy bar...

i still remember the horror of the area 24 hour rat packs.

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sibeen ducks in to say...

Posted June 4, 2013

Bugger. What is the word limit in a comment thread? I could really go to town on this one, as I'm sure a few other's could as well.

In the nine years I did wearing a fairly non descript daggy green thingy for a day job, there were two cooks who stood out like shiny glints of gold amoungst the dross. The first was at a very samll base, and I mean very small. Total manpower of around 30 and only about 10 of us lived on base. This bloke made an effort. Actually asked us what we'd like a day or two ahead and then try to arrange it under the obvious restrictions he was placed under. He actually gave a shit. Morning tea was produced for the whole base and ther was no running off to get any local take away muck. It was a time when all got together, over a brew and some munchies, and could talk about what was going on without rank being a huge issue.

The second bloke was way better. This time I was again posted to a small unit,around 70 odd, but in this case within a reasonable sized base. 'Junior' was the cook who was allocated to our small unit. We were field force, whilst the rest of the base was static. This meant that he worked in the big mess when we weren't out playing at soldiers in the scrub. The statics hated when we did that. They didn't give a flying fuck what we were doing, but they certainly missed jJunior. No matter what meal he was doing, it was the better for him being there. He was a corporal, but made his senior cooks listen and improve, and provide better service. If he was rostered for Sunday lunch - a meal that the Army actually gave a bit more interest too (money) but the hungover troops rarely did - there would be a queue. Many in the queue wouldn't actually have mess privlages for the day, but Junior had one major defect; he was a tad colour blind and couldn't tell the difference between a mess ticket and a can of VB.

It was out in the bush that this bloke, and us, thrived. We used to get what was called a 14? man ration pack (someone please correct me if I' wrong there - it has been a while) which was filled with the normal army muck. Dried fucking potato, pork beans, spam lookalike etc. Junior would always make sure that he bought a briefcase of his secret herbs and spices. Every tea time was different., and when you're covered in crap, fucked out like all arse, and could eat a boot, turning up to see his smiling visage was a treat.

He just made life better. He was a cook. He was also a champion soldier.

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Murphy mutters...

Posted June 4, 2013

During the Gulf War, our cooks tried twice to come up with something special. One special treat was the shrimp gumbo, which on the first serving wasn't bad. Someone had managed to come up with a lot of dehydrated shrimp.

A LOT of dehydrated shrimp.

We ate that meal five days straight. By the fourth day we were going back for seconds and thirds, not to eat it, but to carry it out to the burn pit to get rid of it.

The other special meal was a ham and cheese omelette, which was more like scrambled eggs with ham and cheese in it. Someone had cut a deal with the 1st UK Division to get some cheese and ham.

That meal was indeed special. The rest were serviceable meals and forget about midnight rations, there were none.

During my eleven months in Korea (I left 42 days early on terminal leave, not soon enough given the extremely fucked up unit I was assigned to) our messhall had Soul Food Tuesday (at least I'm fairly certainly it was Tuesday). I'm not a hog knuckle and collard greens type myself but that meal was immensely popular. Soldiers from all over Camp Casey would line up down the block for it. Those of us who wanted something else, went somewhere else.

The only other memorable, non-holiday meal, was the steak and potatoes we received prior to the start of the ground war. Not only was the steak well prepared, the meal came with fresh salad, something we had not seen in weeks. Of course, it was all sort of dampened by the fact that we knew the shooting would soon start given the quality of the meal.



On the Outer Marches

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted June 4, 2013

Good article.

And there, on the sidebar to that Atlantic article, the second top story is their weekly roundtable on the latest episode of Game of Thrones !!
Flipping heck!. There is something going on with this show that I have never seen before.

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