An army marches on its stomach—so the classic saying goes. This book brings together excerpts from contemporary manuals for U.S. Army cooks to show how the U.S. Army fed and provisioned its troops in the early 20th century and lift the lid on what daily life must have been like both for those preparing and consuming the rations.
The oldest manual included dates from 1896. At this time, the U.S. Army was involved in the last skirmishes of the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American war and the Philippine-American war. The manual prepares a cook for any eventuality whether in garrison, at camp in the field, or on the march, with instructions on everything from butchery to preserving meat and how to organize the serving of the food and clean utensils (a stew pan with fine sand and salt). As well as classic American fare such as chowder, numerous hash recipes and Rhode Island pancakes, more exotic influences are apparent with such delights as Crimean Kebobs, Turkish pillau, "Bombshells" (giant meatballs) and Tamales (chilli beef stew wrapped in corn leaf parcels). By contrast a 1916 manual offers a detailed consideration of nutrition for the men, and what must be one of the first calorie counters for different dishes. Instructions are given on how to assemble a field range in a trench and on a train. Among the more unusual recipes are "head cheese" (meat stew made from scraps) and pickled pigsfeet. Manuals produced during WWII instructed cooks how to bake a variety of breads, cakes and pies, or how to cook dehydrated products.
With an introduction explaining the historical background, this is a fascinating and fun exploration of early 20th-century American army cooking, with a dash of inspiration for feeding your own army!