Not the least interest of today’s American woman in her man’s naval career is apropos of the quality and quantity of his daily food.
Had she and her man lived back in days of “wooden ships and iron men” her despair would have been entirely justified. But today’s healthy bluejacket and naval officer dine in a manner quite acceptable in the American home. And in United States submarines particularly—the “boast boats” of the Navy’s best food— new precooked frozen and prefabricated foods now bid fair to top all previous service excellence and economy in cuisine.
Time was when commanding officers of our naval vessels gave scant thought to food for Jack Tar, a fact well known to women folk at home. In 1795, for example, the daily sea-going ration was ruinous to ruminate: tough and tasteless “bread,” salt beef, rice on Sunday; “bread,” salt pork, beans on Monday. Meals were miserable and mousey. Hardly a day went by without cooks chasing rodents from the ship’s cheesebox—an elementary gesture toward sanitation.
Ships were at sea for months on end. Frequently half their crews suffered from scurvy due to limitation to salt meat. Cooks sometimes resorted to “watering,” that is they hooked lines on chunks of meat, tossed them over the fantail for towing astern in the ship’s wake to “remove part of the salt.” Even ravenous sharks were known to veer away, refusing hungry bites at the trailing cuts.
Crews muttered, swore, and grumbled over their dietetic plight, but maritime law gave the skipper supreme command, and the “business” or knotted end of a line whipped across the back was the “old man’s” answer to excessive gripes. The only luxury was half a pint of rum issued to each crewman daily, a custom we inherited from the British navy.
During the first half of the nineteenth century the sailor’s ration improved only slightly. Safe ashore on leave they would sing out:
“A Yankee’s ship’s gone down the river,
Blow, boys, blow!
And what do you think they got for their dinners?
Blow, boys, blow!
Dandyfunk and donkey’s liver,
Blow, boys, blow!”
It was great food fortune in 1861 when Gideon Welles, former Chief of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing (later the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts), became Secretary of the Navy. He made strong recommendations to Congress for the first major ration reforms for naval vessels at sea; fresh meat, dried vegetables, and fruits. A new ration law added: “ . . . and the Secretary of the Navy may substitute for the ration of coffee and sugar the extract of coffee combined with milk or sugar, if he shall believe such substitution to be conducive to the health and comfort of the Navy.” This was the Department’s first concession to prefabricated provision.
One melancholy incident set back the cheering prospects of better food that same year when the daily rum ration was abolished. However, the Navy, mindful of human feeling, endeavored to compensate for this liquid loss by raising the pay of every bluejacket five cents a day. After that, and for the next 45 years, there was little culinary change.
In 1901 Secretary Long took serious estimate of Navy food afloat and ashore and came up with a plan for general messing of enlisted men. Responsibility for making the SecNav plan work was vested in that businessman of the ship—the supply officer. Among other needs soon recognized was that for cook books with proven recipes, avoidance of waste, and constant betterment in preparation of foods, especially in messes afloat.
The first Navy cook book was written by, of all people, a paymaster, F. T. Arms (Supply Corps), U. S. Navy, and his book was issued in 1902. It contained less than a hundred recipes. Ship cooks took a long look and grimaced. “Recipes! Women’s stuff.” They held a typical male attitude that what was good enough for sailors twenty years before was good enough then.
But Navy Department officials, spurred by the Long order, demanded and got improvement. The day of “salt horse” was doomed, the era of sirloin steak dawned. Nourishing soups, fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh meats and poultry appeared on the menu. The Navy cook book, revised from time to time, became the galley bible.
Progress was rapid particularly as modern frozen methods brought the greatest advances in Navy food preservation. Prior to frozen foods, ships on long cruises served fresh vegetables and fruits on the outbound leg of the voyage, followed by canned, preserved or dried vegetables and fruits as fresh stocks diminished. Today frozen poultry, seafood, meat, vegetables, fruit, and fruit juices are practically taken for granted afloat, although varied according to the type of ship.
Processed foods brought new recipes, as attested by late issues of the Navy cook book which listed 900 recipes on 450 pages. But the size of this volume got out of hand. One cook book for half a dozen simultaneously busy galley personnel in a large battleship, each cook working from a different recipe, reduced speed and retarded culinary efficiency.
So the Navy turned to. Here was a situation calling for a quick, accurate, economical solution. In 1948, the Navy Cook Book Task Committee was organized. A subgroup of the National Security Industrial Association, its mission was to assist the Navy in revising, without cost to the government, the cook book of this service. Expert women and men technologists, home economists, and dietitians from most of the nation’s leading food processing corporations in this “task group” cooperated generously with cognizant Navy Department bureaus and offices in developing and testing the food formulas incorporated in the present Navy Recipe Service.
Today, in addition to individual assistance given by members, the committee continues to meet twice annually with armed service subsistence experts to revise recipes and generally improve food quality. Out of these conferences came developments which changed the cook book into a card file. Today’s Navy recipes appear on handy 5- by 8-inch cards. They meet the Navy needs as the most modern type of recipe information and are endorsed by leading institutional and group feeding authorities.
The cards have many advantages over mother’s familiar old-type cook book. They are more easily handled, can be used by individual food assistants working in various galley areas, and are washable. If a card, by very rare accident, is flipped into a caldron of hot soup, it is fished out, quickly and easily cleaned, and is ready for use good as new, whereas a splatter of soup usually stains or otherwise ruins the pages of an ordinary cook book.
The Navy recipe service contains old seagoing favorites plus many new ones, each tested and retested. Directions are simple, easily followed and written so as to lend themselves to a variety of other dishes. Cooks who develop their own pet recipes that become favorite with their shipmates may submit their culinary concoctions to the Navy’s Provisions Supply Office for inclusion in the recipe service cards. If accepted, a cook’s ship or station is recognized by a credit line on the newly printed card, identifying the originator.
As every skillful chef knows, the day of “a pinch of this and a smidgen of that” is past. A pound of sugar is exactly 16 ounces to Navy cooks, not three uncertain handfuls. So the Navy recipe service calls for precise measurements for all foodstuffs including concentrated and dehydrated. In pursuit of compliance with this factor, careful cost-conscious commissarymen give everybody a break, especially the taxpayers.
The most recent food improvement was revealed simultaneously by Navy and Marine Corps experts in August, 1953, as a brand new 15-day field menu series composed entirely of non-perishable foods. The Marine Corps concluded extensive tests of the menus developed by the Navy Cook Book Task Committee, assisted by food industry specialists. As a result field cooks are now able to combine ingredients in the new “B” ration to make dishes varying from stew to ice cream, instead of using ready-made canned preparations. Former “B” rations were much the same as small-size rations issued to individual men in forward or remote areas.
The new Navy-Marine Corps menus are flexible enough for dietary requirements in the tropics or the arctic regions and can be simplified in forward areas where recipes for such items as chocolate cake or French cherry pie might be too elaborate. Furthermore they provide more than recommended minimum levels of vitamins A and C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium and protein plus 575 more calories than the usual 4000 required for an active man in a temperate climate.
Composed primarily of newly developed canned and dehydrated foods, these meals, served to field forces, Navy construction battalion personnel, and in amphibious vessels, are less monotonous than the World War II “B” ration. Nor is it necessary to repeat a main course during the 15-day period.
In recent years, Navy has placed increasing emphasis on the specialized training for commissarymen who operate Navy general messes, the most recent innovation being the establishment of three “field food service teams” which conduct on-the-job training programs for Navy cooks, bakers, meat cutters. Teams, operating respectively out of the Naval Supply Center, Norfolk, Naval Supply Depot, Newport, and Naval Supply Depot, San Diego, consist of one officer and three chief commissarymen under management and technical control of the Provisions Supply Office, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts.
Purpose of the field food service teams is to assist commissary officers, in charge of Navy general messes afloat and ashore, in on-the-job training programs and to standardize and improve methods of food preparation and service, thus insuring continuing high quality of Navy messing.
Particular stress is laid on preparation timing of all food items to reduce the time element between preparation and serving and thus improve the quality of food served simultaneously while increasing the economy of operation. Advantages of using controlled low heat in meat cooking and the importance of cooking fresh vegetables in small quantities of water, and then only in amounts needed for immediate use, are basic in this modern training procedure.
In this general connection, “assembly line feeding” in such large combatant men- of-war as the mighty battleship U.S.S. New Jersey (BB 62) is of major importance. Appetites can be disturbed by tardy time spent in slowly moving mess lines. New Jersey, for example, has four serving lines, two each on the port and starboard sides of her galley proper. Crews are served at a rate of approximately 20 men per minute in in each line.
It was discovered that more time was required to serve breaded veal cutlets and other meats than Spanish sauce or buttered peas. Pie is classed with meats, from this service standpoint, in which cases time is shortened by placing two pans of meat on the messline with a cook or mess cook serving every other man in the line; similarly pies are passed out by two bakers or mess cooks to alternate men with waiting trays.
Faster pastry and bread service was obtained in New Jersey by building a rack capable of holding 1200 rations of pastry (six cuts per pie) and three pans of bread (35 loaves or 438 slices per pan) on each rack. By putting pastry and bread in these racks just prior to mess call, much slow traffic has been eliminated during meal periods.
Better food and service are germane to individual naval vessels from behemoth battleships to space-squeezed “silent service” submarines. The Navy makes mandatory upon the commanding officer of each ship frequent inspection “into the condition of the provisions in his ship and (to) use every precaution for their preservation.” The commanding officer’s duty has, of course, been made much easier by modern developments in the fields of transportation and refrigeration.
Today’s rigid regulations stipulate that “each meal served in the general mess (for enlisted personnel as differing from the wardroom mess for officers) shall be sampled by an officer detailed by the commanding officer for that purpose. Should this officer find the quality or quantity of the food unsatisfactory, or should any member of the mess object to the quality or quantity of the food, the commanding officer shall be immediately notified and he shall take appropriate action.”
Smallest of all naval combatant vessels, the submarine draws particular attention food-wise. She and her personnel present this complex problem: prolonged confinement and environmental stress during extensive 54-day patrols at sea make heavy demand on the morale and health of her eight officers and 72 men. During World War II and today, submarines patrol submerged for long periods. With the advent of atomic- powered submarines, such as U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571), extremely long underwater cruises are anticipated.
Submarine personnel, most clannish of sailors, nonetheless undergo a far from easy life which, believe it or not, they prefer to service in any other category of naval vessel. They stand one or two four-hour watches daily in their sealed cigar-shaped “boats,” as they are affectionately called. Battle-bent, they operate in carefully conserved surroundings. Even breathing is watched. All but essential electric illumination is doused. The “smoking lamp” is out, for tobacco smoke fouls the precious limited amount of air. Conversation is restricted to operational necessity to avoid any disturbance or distraction to underwater electronics phone listeners. Physical movements are strictly functional for those on duty; others lie idle on their tiny thin-mattressed bunks, simply relaxing.
On more pacific pursuit at sea, a submariner stands his watches with a great deal of “free” time otherwise. But this is of minor value for it must be spent within the watertight hull approximately 300 feet long by 25 feet wide. Actually little of this space is available to him. Masses of machinery, gear, arms, and equipment take up most of the space. What remains is a narrow aisle along which he can make his way from one hull compartment to another, his bunk and a partial interest in the little mess space when it is otherwise not in use.
When he and his shipmates are precluded from the benefits of sunshine or seldom see daylight, an average submarine’s personnel will turn to bottles of vitamin pills. These pellets are especially vital to submarine engineers and electrician’s mates, many of whom never step topside to the miniature tub-like fair water section, jestingly called the “bridge,” during an entire patrol.
On the whole, life is confining and boring. These conditions have a definite effect on the submariner. Subconsciously, even though not readily measurable, he takes normal but not belligerant exception to his chosen environment, against discomforts of a cruise, lack of sunlight, the wearying action of heavy, pitching seas. Yet he’d never dream of transferring to any other duty. He is young, has a healthy appetite. Small wonder then that the average submariner looks to his chow not altogether as a means of satisfying hunger but as a matter of recreation—- perhaps his main diversion. He eats and relaxes. To some extent this shields him from his environment. But even in eating he does not find too much pleasure, partly because of a subconscious antipathy, partly due to lethargy caused by space and activity restriction.
The Navy, in continuing effort to improve food values, abundance, variety, and acceptability (palatability) for undersea men, recently ordered a practical food demonstration in two submarines operating in company on an Arctic cruise. U.S.S. Toro (SS 422) was loaded with experimental provisions selected to reduce cube and weight, waste and garbage, quantity of water and electricity used in food preparation, number of man hours and degree of cooking skill required. Toro’s commissary thus stocked precooked frozen foods, ready-to-cook meats (fresh roasts, chops and steaks, all butchered and trimmed and packed cube-wise), dehydrated fruits and vegetables, premixed bakery goods and concentrated foods. Many of these items were especially shaped and packaged to conserve stowage space. Toro was manned by 80 personnel for her 90-day operational test cruise.
The ease with which the experimental provision load fitted into spaces provided within Toro was noted by experienced submariners who had loaded many times for grim and lonely war patrols. Actually, had it been desired, additional chilled and dry stores could have been stowed aboard without exhausting living and working spaces. The only difficulty encountered was in storing frozen supplies. While Toro’s interior characteristics indicated sufficient frozen space available, approximately 30 cubic feet of frozen food had to be stored in the boat’s chill box. This was consumed during the first two weeks of the cruise, or was moved later into frozen storage, as available, and refrozen.
Accompanying Toro was another submarine, U.S.S. Halfbeak (SS-352). She, by contrast, carried normal provision load calculated to last 75 days, consisting of hitherto routine fresh or processed foods.
The experiment sought to establish whether
1. A fleet-type submarine could be loaded with sufficient food for a 90-day cruise without recourse to use of living and much-used working space in the boat.
2. This provision load was acceptable to the crew.
3. This provision load reduced man hours for cooks and mess cooks.
4. Quantities of garbage could be reduced.
5. The cost of the experimental load was within a submarine’s ration allowance.
The two undersea craft sailed for Portsmouth, U. K., in winter weather. Seas were rough. Reaching the British Isles they lay over briefly, then departed for the Greenland Sea to rendezvous considerably north of the Arctic Circle for exercises which required Toro to remain submerged for twenty hours daily. Her heaters were shut off to conserve electricity. The outside water temperature was around 34 degrees F. Crewmen endeavored to keep reasonably warm by wearing more than normal clothing and lying prone on their bunks. Movement and talking were restricted. The smoking lamp was out throughout the boat. It was uncomfortable for four long days.
During this time a previously planned menu was rewritten to conserve battery and reduce food odors for this 96-hour submersion. Precooked frozen foods were used extensively. No foods were fried, instead normally fried items were “ovenized.” All meals were, nonetheless, served hot, At the expense of considerable electrical energy, no reduction was made in baking pastries or breads and the demand for these remained steady.
Mess hours were: breakfast 0700, dinner 1115, soup 1515 and supper 1915. The menu for each of three days is shown at the top of the next page:
There was no limit on “open ice box” privileges. The men took whatever available foods they desired for between-meal snacks. Since the required quantities of food had been calculated only on the basis of items on the menus, the supply of popular canned fruits, pickles, olives, canned fruit juices, frozen fruit juices, taken at will for snacks was reduced more than had been anticipated. In certain instances these foods or stocks were exhausted before the cruise ended.
In contrast, Halfbeak, which had loaded for 15 days less at sea, was obliged to stow food supplies in her shower-baths, under, around and over torpedoes, bunks, and throughout living spaces. She was really crowded. Both boats yielded excellent information results in the food study. Returning to port, Halfbeak had practically no fresh meats left and had nearly exhausted numerous other essential supplies. But Toro returned with ample frozen foods and related supplies on board and, if necessary, could have remained at sea for a much longer period. An illustration: the quantity of food consumed in Toro was 4.1 pounds per man per day compared to 5 pounds per man per day in Halfbeak.
Orange juice conc.
Cold cereal, fresh milk
Bread, butter, coffee
Roast beef, gravy PCF*
Bread, butter, coffee
Chop suey on rice
Lettuce wedges, mayonnaise
Cold cereal, fresh milk
Hot cakes, syrup
Cream mushroom soup
Roast pork, gravy PCF*
White cake, frosted
Bread, butter, coffee
Spaghetti, meat sauce (Meat sauce precooked and frozen)
Mixed vegetable salad
Banana ice cream
Hash brown potatoes
Eggs to order
Cold cereal, fresh milk
Bread, butter, coffee
Beef vegetable soup
Chicken à la king
Bread, butter, coffee
Chili meat with beans and crackers (Meat PCF*)
Macaroni and cheese
Mixed vegetable salad
Frozen raspberries and canned apricots
Bread, butter, coffee
For the first eight days of the cruise appetites were high in spite of some sea (motion) sickness. Then came a significant drop and appetite levels did not return to the high consumption rate for any length of time. As the cruise continued, the men tended to eat more and more “snack” variety of foods and skip regular meals. There were several unusual exceptions to this, however, both in appetite levels and missed meals and they occurred following periods of calm sailing. One morning in particular, after a night of smooth seas and the first good night’s rest in many a day, the crew— almost to a man—hit the deck from their bunks and ate nearly twice as much food as usual for breakfast.
It was estimated that the use of experimental foods reduced by almost 25 percent the actual working time spent by cooks and mess men. Resourcefully they utilized this saving to the gustatory approval of all hands and prepared such extra delicacies as baked Alaska, cream puffs, ice box cookies, cherry crumb pie and even more elaborate desserts.
Gratifying water saving was made: fresh potatoes usually required 8¼ gallons of water in peeling and cooking to prepare them for mashing to serve 80 men. But the same quantity made from dehydrated granule potatoes used up only 2½ gallons of water for the same number of personnel.
Plastic plates, cups and bowls installed in Toro's galley for this cruise were very well received by officers and men. In rough seas they did not crack or break, were light to handle and quickly cleaned.
When surfaced, a submarine is as much at the whim of the restless waves as any other floating object . . . possibly more so since she is small and rolls and pitches except in a mill pond sea. Pots must be locked down when in heavy sea use. Wet terry toweling is spread on work surfaces to prevent containers from slipping and spilling foods. A heaving sea will collapse the best of cakes and causes pies to blow their crusty tops, drooling delicious contents into the ovens. Deep-fat fryers cannot be used, for hot grease in a rolling sea is highly dangerous and even a sliding pan of grease-popping, frying eggs has had many a boat cook in the astonishing attitudes and counterpoise of the childhood game of “statue.”
Premixed bakery products used in Toro’s galley proved highly efficient. When operating conditions permitted in each submarine, baking was done at night. But Toro had far more satisfactory results using a “no-time” bread dough technique—a specially developed mix.
As a matter of record Toro’s bakers, in one shift, baked all the bread necessary for a day or several days, as well as all required baked desserts. In two little ovens, these white aproned artists whipped out 56 pounds of bread, 12 pounds of cornbread, 14 pounds of breakfast rolls, 14 pounds of hamburger buns, 10 coconut cream pies, 85 servings of strawberry shortcake and 20 dozen cookies— all in 48 hours.
But Halfbeak, operating under identical cruise conditions without benefit of Toro’s modernistic menu basics, was hard pressed to serve even a completely rounded meal. Much of the time her cooks resorted to canned fruit for desserts. They had few pies and cakes during the patrol and never sweet rolls or other breakfast baked delicacies—in fact stormy weather lasting three days precluded any bread baking.
Nutrient evaluations included recording body weights of Toro and Halfbeak crews by the Medical Research Laboratories at the Navy’s submarine base at New London, Connecticut, prior to and on conclusion of the cruise. The average loss per man in Toro for the 48 days was 1½ pounds whereas Halfbeak personnel gained one-half a pound. But the laboratory experts considered these fluctuations to be of no great consequence. This may be one mass case history where people reduced by eating heartily.
On the basis of total foods consumed, less an estimated calorie loss in garbage, each man in Toro averaged about 3700 calories per day; in Halfbeak on the same basis each man had an estimated 3800 calories daily but the laboratory deemed this difference inconsequential.
Latest food research development, of great value to submarine and all other naval vessel crews and shore station personnel, is the Navy-Massachusetts Institute of Technology announcement in March, 1953, of a meat preservation achievement in which hamburger was preserved in one second for ordinary refrigeration temperatures for 60 days or longer without spoilage. Previously tested atomic radiation processes have required 24 hours to preserve small portions of some meats and certain vegetables.
The Navy-MIT technologists used a pilot “assembly-line” consisting of a simple six foot conveyor belt that passed the meat to be preserved under cathode rays generated in a three million volt accelerator which imparts high energy to the electrons. The rays bombard the meat and kill bacteria. A process has been devised to eliminate the off- flavor and odors which sometimes occur in irradiation treatment.
Hamburger, which ordinarily spoils within a few days at 40 to 50 degrees F., is the meat most successfully treated. MIT researchers also have preserved fresh spinach and pink (nearly ripe) tomatoes. Navy technologists pronounce this the most forward step in commercial meat preservation since canning was discovered.
All of which is vast progress from “watered” meat trailing astern of American naval sailing ships in 1802. Today our bluejackets and officers dine on succulent sirloin steak, freshest of vegetables, and quick-quick bakery products.