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The U.S. Army Cook’s Manual

The U.S. Army Cook’s Manual

ed by R Sheppard
ARRSE Rating
3 Mushroom Heads
This is one of the quirky books that turn up from time to time and it is one that has fascinating bits, both historical and culinary. The editor, R Sheppard has brought together the Manual but has added some historical facts giving the context for changes. For instance, early in the 20th Century, the US was expanding over the Pacific and although they claimed not to be building colonies did exactly that in places like the Philippines. This brought about a new climate for cooks to work in and for food to be preserved. For a while it was thought by some genius, who obviously did not have to eat the end product that embalming the meat was a good way of preserving prior to cooking and eating – it is not!

The book is small, pocket sized yet packs a lot into it. The editor takes the reader back to the American Civil War where large numbers of troops were being deployed by the Federal and Confederate armies on a scale never thought of before. It was recognised that trained cooks were needed to ensure that the men were properly fed which led to the setting up of cook schools and commissariats able to deal with the supply of rations. The book ends more or less with the First World War when reorganisation and order were needed yet again. The editor covers this very well and concisely.

The last half of the book is devoted to recipes, some of which look positively exotic to the British Army: canned lobster devilled, baked beans which are nothing like the ones we know and love so much! Recipes given are, in the main, for 60 men so large quantities in each one. Lots of other strange recipes like how to make hominy grits, how to roast, grind and prepare coffee – an essential for the US Soldier. Ice Cream recipes and iced lemonade or tea – not often seen on Victorian British army menus I would suspect. It is fascinating to see the type of ration that the US Soldier would expect as a norm and how they are cooked.

The book also goes through how to set up kitchens, both in garrison (barracks) or in the field. In the field also goes through what to do if no cooking facilities are available, such as cooking a fish nailed to a plank of wood and propped up in from of a fire, head down first then head upwards seems to be important!

Hygiene, the staffing of a cookhouse details, again for 60 men, are all covered. I have often heard the expression used for kitchen fatigues in films and books about the US of men on KP, I now know that stands for Kitchen Police. Not disciplinary police but men to do the washing up, gather wood and other menial tasks leaving cooking to a trained cook!

As I said, a quirky but very interesting wee book which is worth keeping on the shelf just to dip in to now and again for amusement, knowledge of US Army infrastructure and general military history. Very useful also if you have 60 US servicemen popping round for tea!

I give this a well deserved 3 Mr MRHs.

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