Food and the Army

Some time ago, I saw the following replica of a soldier’s biscuit in the Imperial War museum in Manchester :

with the message “King and country need you and this is how they feed you”.

This reminded me of my time in the army, and the one occasion when we had to spend the night in our tent, left to our own devices. We were handed a “survival” pack, containing (amongst other things) a biscuit like the one above, and virtually the only edible item, which was a bar of chocolate. Imagine if this type of food was all you could rely on day after day. I suppose that in the end you would find a way to make the bone-hard biscuit edible.

Mind you, the quality of the food in the canteen was only marginally better. Sometimes, if you saw the menu for the evening, and you totally disliked it, you could always arrive late, hope the kitchen had run out of the regular supply of the evening’s menu and if you were lucky they might throw a couple of steaks on the drier to make up for running out of the scheduled item.

Or otherwise you went outside the barracks and found something more edible in one of the cheap restaurants there. They clearly were catering for the fed-up soldier, since they even had mussels done the Flemish way on the menu.

Still, part of the problem with the food was not necessarily the food on the menu, but the people manning the kitchen. Burnt food was not unusual, just because no-one was paying attention, or sometimes the people serving were fooling around, and ladling gravy into the soup or something like it.

That’s why it paid to stay friendly with the kitchen guys : if you did, the worst contamination could be avoided, and who knows maybe your pal would put a nicer portion aside for you.


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