Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, February 13, 2015

Proof That Soldiers Think About Food a Whole Lot

And food, I believe, must always have been the greatest relaxation of fighting men. Raids may come and raids may go — but food goes on forever. One bad meal will eclipse the memory of twenty good ones and leave the world in dismal gloom, presided over by his Satanic Majesty, the cook, who degenerates into a mere "belly-robber" and becomes the unhappy recipient of a thousand other uncomplimentary titles. The mess sergeant too is accused of vice of every description, from midnight raids on the larder, to feeding the food for hungry, suffering soldiers to the pet goat of another company

But even good food has special names of its own. Food in general is "chow." Stew is "slum" or "slumgullion." Coffee is "Java." Salmon — and there is a lot of it — is "gold-fish" or "sea-turkey." Corned beef is "corned willy," and canned meat of almost any variety is "bully-beef," or "monkey meat." In barracks when the mess is ready, the cook simply makes the announcement, "Come and get it I" and there is never any doubt about what he means. 

I was standing outside one of the squad tents recently when the voice of the rifleman corporal came booming out through the canvas. 

"When I get back," it said, "when I get back, I'm goin' to the Waldorf-Astoria, and I'm goin' to order soup and celery and olives and all that stuff, and a steak about three inches thick, and vegetables and salad and a piece of juicy huckleberry pie; and then I'm goin' to order a can of salmon and set it on the table, and then I'm goin' to say, 'Sit there, you damn' goldfish, and watch me eat!' Win I eat? O, boyl" 

And thereupon, the mere thought of "real food" caused such a mighty chemical "kick" that noises of human throttling and flying mess kits filled the air, and I moved on out of range.

Lt. Harold Speakman, 332nd Infantry in Italy

1 comment:

  1. A prescient view. Food has been the main thought of soldiers since the first men donned an emblem and marched off to war. A good example of this was All Quiet on the Western Front when the remains of the company out of the line and the mess sergeant refused to issue the food. A riot ensues until the Company commander appears hears Kaz's complaint and tells the cooks to "issue all of it"! Bread for 250 men split by seventy, Marvelous!