***Part of a semiregular series about my findings at the Margaret Husted Culinary Collection at DU’s Penrose Library—a remarkable, undersung cookbook archive whose 1000s of specimens run the gamut from serious historical finds to, well, the following.***

In a post-post-Vietnam, post-9/11, post–Iron Chef, post-ironic era, what’s not to love about a good old, genuine, pre-loss-of-collective-(however willed)-innocence, WWII-era collection of recipes “used by the Military Service in their kitchens & galleys,” from shit on a shingle to biscuits & gravy? The cover alone’s a happy heartbreaker,


between the use of all-caps to emphasize COOK BOOK—lest you, trawling across, say, the website of the US Army food service for photos like


need convincing that Military Meals at Home (1943) isn’t in fact some sort of joke book—& the guarantee that the recipes therein will build “resistance.” What, like vaccines? Is it possible to choke down enough “Irish grape & bologna salad” that you could develop an immunity to it? 

No, somehow I don’t think you could ever get used to potato salad such as this, heaped atop what appears to be thin-sliced roast beef & ringed round with either black olives (the referent of the above slur) or actual grapes. Or blueberries with some kind of infection.


Per the introduction, “It is a truism that ‘food is what men fight with,’ but it has only recently been recognized that food is what men see with & fly with. High-vitamin food is what supports the terrific strain of emergencies.” An example might be a nice cuppa trusty old joe, which apparently comes with not only firepower but all the milk, sugar & caffeine–induced vim you need to  use it.


Another would be oh-so-nutrient-dense fried mush & bacon.


To reiterate that caption:

You can’t get ’em up

You can’t get ’em up

Sure you can get ’em up
when its
[sic] fried mush and
bacon for breakfast

Those midcentury drill sergeants were no Madvillain, I’ll tell you that. Granted, the studs of the armed forces in general don’t seem to have been prone toward lyricism, especially of the romantic variety.


Was that a threat? Did droves of vets leave their high-school sweethearts for mess cooks with hardons for hardtack?

If so, it must’ve been those same don’t-ask-don’t-tell targets who founded the US Army Culinary Competition, which actually looks like a) a blast b) the real deal:

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Hell, the rulebook—covering everything from clarified consommés to marzipan modeling—is 81 pp. long! One key caveat:

—A service member that gets injured during Armed Force Chef of the Year, Armed Forces
Jr. Chef of the Year, or Categories K [Practical & Contemporary Hot Food Cooking] & P [Practical & Contemporary Patisserie] will be evaluated by the lead kitchen judge. If the injuries
are serious, the lead judge will stop the competitor & show staff will ensure that the injured service
member gets proper medical attention. The competitor will not be rescheduled.

Suck it up, soldiers—after all, cooking isn’t just a job, it’s an adventure!