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Artifact Friday: U.S. Army Recipe Tech Manual

Happy Friday!

I hope everyone had a wonderful week!

To kick off this weekend, here is a unique twist on recipes.

Featured here is a U.S. Army Recipe Tech manual. It was used by a Mess cook during World War Two, and as one observes, has seen some action based on the cover of the manual.

The U.S. military is only as good as its mess company, and there has been a traditional cook in the US Armed Forces since George Washington was the Commanding General.

However, during the early days, a mess cook(s) was not assigned, they were usually just an individual who enjoyed cooking.

Soldiers were issued rations per individual, and they would additionally plant gardens and hunt game if they were stationary in any one place for a while.

It was not until the Spanish-American War that a Mess Company idea was tested and finally, right before World War One, the Quartermaster Corps took it upon themselves to officially establish a Mess team per Army unit.

These units had a team for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and each would share their shifts equally.

They were not only in charge of the meals, but they were also key in the sanitation of their unit by making sure everything was clean.

(Now, service members were still issued individual rations, however, their meals when they were on base or even stationary in combat were made by the Mess team.)

The Mess team was issued cooking pans, utensils, ingredient rations, and even Tech manuals.

These Tech Manuals were revised every couple of years with the rules and regulations of the Mess team. These manuals would also contain recipes that the cooks could use with the correct ingredients and proportions for each meal.

There would also be different sections. For example, there was a section for bread, meat, eggs, sandwiches, and even desserts. There was even a section for cooking soups and stews.

These recipes were written and adjusted to feed large groups so noted by how much of each ingredient is used in the recipes.

Let us look at this sandwich recipe.

These are instructions for bacon, bologna, cheese, and roast beef sandwiches.

The way the Army manual lists it, this is not your normal weekly meal prep.

If a cook wanted to make a bacon and baked bean sandwich, then he would chop the bacon and bake the beans -5 pounds of them.

Mix them and put them on a three-eighth-inch-thick slice of bread with butter softened on the bread. Then top it with another three-eighths-inch slice. And he was supposed to only use enough filling to make it thick not soggy. He was then to wrap it in wax paper and serve it as soon as possible.

He could repeat the process with other sandwiches, even varying the toppings and breads to keep a variety.

Cooks could get very clever with their manuals, editing and changing the recipes depending on what they had on hand, especially if their unit was in combat.

Military cooks were both loved and loathed by those they served depending on what they cooked. Some service members still will not touch beans or rice because of the recipes used by the mess cooks during their time.

But whichever way one slices it, these mess cooks were an essential part of the American war machine, and of course, they could not have done it without their recipe tech manual.

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