Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Food, glorious food!
Food, glorious food!
Don't care what it looks like--
Don't care what the cook's like.
Just thinking of growing fat –
Our senses go reeling
One moment of knowing that
So go the lyrics written by Lionel Bart for the 1960’s musical “Oliver.” Perhaps soldiers, sailors and airmen felt the same way after days and sometimes weeks subsisting on C-rations as they pushed their way across Europe, Asia and beyond during the second world war.
I recently visited the Wright Museum, a museum dedicated to World War II and found myself staring at a stack of cans and boxes that made up one day’s worth of individual meal rations. Napoleon is credited with saying, “An army marches on its stomach,” and history has proved him correct over and over with stories of seemingly unstoppable armies being brought to their knees when their supply lines were cut.
Looking at the display I wondered at the ability of the Allies to support their troops with this small collection of food. Apparently the government wondered about it too, because in 1920 the Quartermaster Subsistence School was started. Its main function was to instruct officers and enlisted men regarding the procurement, processing, inspection, transportation, storage and issuing of subsistence supplies.
By 1936, the school had merged with the general Quartermaster school and re-opened as the Subsistence Research Laboratory. They tested food, conducted studies and analyzed reserved and emergency rations which ultimately allowed them to offer by the end of the war a ration that was by most accounts predictable, portable and palatable. Despite the numerous factors involved – factors I never thought about – military utilization, stability and storage requirements, nutritional values, shipping space, weight, food protection and deliveries to locations from deserts to jungles, approximately one billion special rations costing about 675 million dollars were procured between 1941 and 1945.
And I thought it was a lot of work to put on a dinner party!