My first U.S. Army breakfast was creamed chip beef on white toast. The GIs called it “shit-on-a-shingle.” I liked it. Army food varied from post to post the best ever in Santa Ana AFB, California, where the mess officer was said to spend his entire food budget on... food. We ate like kings.
With precisely 20 minutes for every meal, we rushed into the dining room-style mess hall, tables loaded with bowls of huge black olives, peaches, nectarines, plums, baked or mashed potatoes, platters of pork chops, veal chops, or pot roast, two different vegetables, quarts of milk, coffee, and for dessert, pie or cake, which we topped with slabs of ice cream, on top of that, fresh strawberry preserves, honey over that. These were A-Rations, cooked on the spot from produce bought locally.
No base matched Santa Ana, yet everywhere the military got the best. Before I became a cadet, in Sioux Falls, SD, radio operator school, the huge base had been carved out of farm land. One day we were marched into a field of ripe tomatoes.
“Halt! Fall out and eat tomatoes.”
Food quality dropped overseas, first in Goose Bay Labrador, where they ate mostly C-Rations [photo, left]. , which came in cans already prepared. It generated the expected griping, especially jellied beef tongue, which I particularly liked.
Living on K-Rations had to be tough on ground troops, but for us it was a picnic aloft, and the chocolate was delicious. Troops today have something called MREs—Meals Ready to Eat. You can buy them in outdoor camping supply stores. I have a young friend who said his teacher brought some to class one day, pouches of dried food to which you add water, which then gets hot.
“Did you like it?” I asked.