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
Full-up feeling!

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!


  1. Linda,
    And here I thought you were going to talk about how abundant our food supply is and we take it for granted OR that we eat WAY too much every day!
    I could not begin to think of being in the military or in the space program and eating the foods they eat.
    I am grateful for what we have, but this post has made me realize that I am not grateful enough for the food in grocery stores, fast food chains, and my very own pantry! Thanks for reminding me to have a grateful heart :-)

  2. Linda,
    I had no idea. This is a great post! Thank you!

  3. A couple of my favorite foods were created for the troops or space living--Spam and Tang. Although I eat neither one now. Too much fat, sodium and sugar. But then I guess fighting men needed those things. Great post.

  4. Spam. Used to love it...not so much anymore. :-) Great post.