And Now For Something Completely Different

| July 7, 2012


Been out of The Navy for over 40 years and my memory is sometimes shaky, but this story puzzles me some.

As executive chef for Vice President Joe Biden, Chief Culinary Specialist (SW) Thomas McNulty cooks for some of the world’s most powerful people using some of the same skills the Navy hopes will make the food sailors eat tastier and healthier.

“The culinary world has blown up, and I think it’s a natural progression that the military and the Navy have seen that we just can’t sit in an archaic era,” McNulty, a 14-year veteran, told Navy Times.

Somehow I always knew that officers country was a “special” place, and that airdales were weird, but this is something well the other side of odd:

CSSN Quindell Jenkins paid close attention to the pep talk his watch captain gave the day before the meal.

“He spoke to all of us before the Asian-Pacific meal where we have to carve baby pigs on the carving station,” Jenkins said.

Yes, that’s suckling pig served on an aircraft carrier in the middle of a combat mission in the Persian Gulf.

I remember powdered eggs, reconstituted milk, and bug juice among other culinary treats. If we were on the gun line we’d maybe even get baloney sandwiches for three meals. We even got to relish C-Rats during extended GQ sessions.

Lookit I’m all for anything that improves the life of a sailor at sea, but is this emphasis on epicurean delights REALLY important? Does your average sailor rush ashore looking for the local gourmet eatery in each port?

I just don’t remember it that way?

Added via the comments, thanks:


Category: Geezer Alert!, Navy

Comments (34)

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  1. DO says:

    Navy chow is AWESOME GOOD!

    FOGO are usually authorized an officer aide, and an enlisted (NCO) aide. And sometimes a driver too. The enlisted aide is usually a cook, and has been sent to the best cooking, baking and nutrition schools the government can pay for. These men and women are traded among FOGO like precious diamonds.

  2. fm2176 says:

    This may be apples and oranges here, but the dining facilities on Stewart (and likely other Army installations) serve various cultural foods different days of the week as well, during lunch at least. There’s a stir fry station some days, and a couple of weeks ago they served pig feet along with other distinct po’ Southerner foods. Of course, the short order and sandwich lines are always open for someone looking for a healthy wrap or a not-so-healthy burger and fries.

  3. NHSparky says:

    We bubbleheads were told all the time we were fed the best. I guess if you looked around enough you might find one or two of us who actually believed it.

    I mean, who can argue when served such culinary delights as pillows of death, horsecock sandwiches, fat sticks, baboon ass, elephant scabs, and cat turds?

    After one underway we did a quick stores load and got a case of lettuce. One of the guys grabbed a head out of the box and started gnawing on it in both hands. 60 days of fresh NOTHING has that effect.

  4. AndyN says:

    So, there’s no money in the budget to fully find tricare, which only exists because there was no money in the budget to fully fund the free healthcare for life that retirees were promised, but there’s money in the budget to serve suckling pig on a combat tour? I see.

  5. Former 3364 says:

    The joys of stores load and reading “Rejected by US Army” on our meat. Oh, and “Jaspers” peanut butter…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mmmm… Horsecock…

    Don’t forget Beef Yak and hockey pucks.

  7. Ben says:

    I always thought Army chow was pretty good. Especially soul food Thursdays. I always looked forward to that.

  8. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 8: Agree — US ARMY = GOOD FOOD .

  9. Mike Kozlowski says:

    …Well, FWIW, I ate Navy chow aboard ship twice: once aboard the Eisenhpwer and once aboard Norfolk (SSN-714). Both times I actually searched out and complimented the cooks, because they sure as hell were doing a better job than the contract cooks at the Langley AFB chow hall 15 miles down the road.

    On the other hand: roast suckling pig shipboard? That spinning noise you hear is my beloved Uncle Jack spinning in his grave, may he rest in peace, who sailed through WWII aboard USS Ranger (CV-4)…and to his dying day never had a good word to say about the food except on holidays. (An aside – Ranger spent a good chunk of the war attached to the British up in the North Sea. That could explain his dislike of the food.)

  10. Open Channel D says:

    I mess cranked on the USS Tarawa and my first job was cracking ice off frozen broccoli and skimming the fryer fat for roaches and rats.

    Food on the USNS Comfort was the best, USS Wasp was pretty damn close, everything else was average at best. Since most shore messes are contracted out (or closed) now, maybe the chow at sea has had a chance to improve.

  11. Green Thumb says:

    Beats MRE’s…

  12. RandyB says:

    How is it that I’m the first to post this?

  13. streetsweeper says:

    Doc Brett must have been in a “gravy, sausage n biscuits” unit…lmao! Just kidding with ya, Doc…

  14. Information Warrior says:

    @ #3

    IMHO sub food is the best. Sub CS’ actually put effort into the food and they are able to actually do some pretty cool stuff since crew size is smaller.

    Then again, I think food has steadily been improving the past few years because they now have brand name products.

    Of course this still doesn’t explain where the gallies get the bag nasties from…

    @ 10

    I like how that even though a person working in the galley is now called a FSA (Food Service Attendant) we all still refer to it as “cranking”.

  15. AW1 Tim says:

    Man, I remember the flight galley at NAS Brunswick getting shut down and the Mess Chif canned for using spoiled meat and/or something. One of the flight crews had drawn box lunches and everyone who ate theirs got violently ill with food poisoning. Almost lost the aircraft because of it. This was around 1978.

    Now, our regular galley was pretty damned good. On Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Eve suppers, we even got served wine. But the flight galley was so bad that most crews would brown bag it rather than use that service. The galley at NAS Bermuda was a nasty place too, but the one at
    Rota Spain was excellent.

    Had some REALLY great chow aboard USS Connole, and USS Howard, but I also remember that you could tell how long you’d been to sea by what color the milk was. Used lots of tabasco on powdered eggs, too, and also had my share of horsecock and mystery meat.

  16. Information Warrior says:

    @ 15

    I’m curious has milk always been that UHT stuff or is that a recent innovation?

    Ugh….I can still taste it even now.

  17. AW1 Tim says:

    I rarely drank milk. I was always a black coffee guy.

  18. Hondo says:

    streetsweeper: I think he was talking about the limas and mothers. (smile)

  19. NHSparky says:

    Info Warrior…two boats and a tender. Seen decent, not so decent, and God-awful. Knew a guy on another boat who got extended on station. They ran out of everything except green bug juice, flour, yeast, and 3-bean salad. That’s all they had…3-bean salad sandwiches and green bug. I’ve seen cooks try to pass off corned beef hash as spaghetti sauce.

    And Tim…I dove and cleaned the potable water tanks on my first boat during SRA. That was enough to convince me to drink ONLY boiled water underway, i.e., coffee.

  20. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 13:
    No — you’re right (if I even know what you mean !!)
    I was a “famous” R.E.M.F. — which I prefer to define as:
    Radio-Electronic Military Forces. Rarely was I shown the C-Rations .

  21. Bobo says:

    I think that we had one MS on our boat that had completed some culinary arts “C” school before getting to us, but the extra training didn’t change the fact that, after about a month under water, the eggs and vegetables were rotten. We also had one brain surgeon MSC on one patrol who loaded all of the beef in the back of the freezer and all of the chicken in the front of the freezer, so, for the first month of patrol it was all chicken until the cranks could get far enough back to hit beef, and the last month of patrol was all beef.

    Prim donna surface pukes and their pigs.

  22. NHSparky says:

    Bobo…try being on a T-hull. No such animal as an all-hands stores load.

  23. B Woodman says:

    Being Army Signal, usually supporting “leg” units– it was either mess halls, C Rats, T Rats, or MREs. There were the high spots, usually on a holiday, but overall, mediocre and average at best.
    It was a treat to go to an AF mess hall when TDY.
    God blessed me by finding me a God-blessed talented wife who knows how to COOK, and well. No wonder I’ve gained weight (don’t ask me how much) since retirement.

  24. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    Maybe you guys were just assigned to the wrong ships. I was assigned to LST-1198 the Bristol County and LPD-8 the Dubuque and they both served some damn good chow! Gotta give the “zomies” some props, their chow halls were very damn good, too.

  25. SFC Holland says:

    DFAC’s on BAF do steak, lobster, crablegs every friday night. Not great, but way better than we ate in Zabul. When I was at NTC in the 90’s, on Regimental attack days, cooks would drive out and set up MKT’s and do steak and eggs to order for us. That was awesome. Chow has come a long way in just the last 20 years, and leaps beyond 40-60 years ago.

  26. teddy996 says:

    @19- Hash for sauce? That’s fucking awesome, and I wish the cooks on the ‘Dub had served that. The most ingenuity I saw on ship was that they stuffed over-cooked, re-heated liver into tacos for midrats once. There isn’t enough Texas Pete or Tabasco in the world to hide that flavor.

    @21- That’s prima donna admiral’s cabin shit. Enlisted and regular officers don’t get that kind of thing.

    We used to raid the chief’s mess locker (surface chiefs have a privately funded mess, with arguably better food than the officers get), and the best I ever saw there was frozen lobster tail and USDA grade A beef.

    Of course if we had seen a pig down there, we would have had one helluva time trying to cook it in a bearing oven down in the pit. But we damn sure would’ve tried.

  27. Jorge says:

    Yeah, the AF chow halls were pretty good, the Army chow hall in Sinop was very good (on most days) and the best boat food was on the Alexandria and the “Boat which shall not be named.” Of course, ham and cheese sandwiches for nearly a month straight on the latter sucked. Best surface? Cannot think of a single one…

  28. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    Only time I ate in an Army chow hall was when my nephew graduated recruit training at Fort Knox. I don’t know if they were just showing off or what but they served roast beef, mashed ‘taters, mixed veggies and rolls that were very good. If memory serves, there wasn’t a single broke d1ck Pvt serving on the mess line. It was all contractors. What’s the world coming to?!?

  29. AW1 Tim says:

    On the positive side of things, in 1977, just before I deployed overseas with VP-10, we got a new Mess Cook, whose name I cannot remember. At that time, all of the squadrons were self-contained units, inthat we had enough personnel of all types to deploy anywhere in the world and be self-supporting. A flight surgeon, Corpsmen, admin types, our own mechs and mess cooks, etc.

    Anyway, he asks for and gets assigned to the flight galley as he’s heard it needs help, and boy did it. The job there is to make up boxed lunches for aircrew, VIP flights, etc. In the past, it was always a guessing game as to what color of mystery meat the sandwich would be, and how bad off the fruit (if any was included) was, etc.

    Well, all of a sudden, every aircrew got a menu taped to his locker from the flight galley that included 6-7 different box lunches available for request. I remember some of the choices were a Roast Beef sub, a fried chicken lunch, a chef’s salad with choice of dressing, etc. Unbelievable. The food was prepared to order from fresh ingredients, and you could order up to 24 hours in advance for p/u at the flight galley service room. Lemme tell you that the food was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

    It turns out that the 1st Class(E-6)who had asked for the assignment was a graduate of the CIA and had worked in some upscale places in New York City. He’d gone through a bad relationship (as I heard it) and decided to make a break from that rat race and join the Navy.

    He eventually won some awards for Sailor of the Year and got a Navy Achievement Medal before he shipped off to the west coast. That was a BIG deal in those days, because it was pretty rare for an enlisted man to have one.

    But he was a great guy. Very outgoing and loved his job, and it showed. And it also showed how one man with the right skills and ideas can take what was the weakest part of a system and make it shine.

  30. DR_BRETT says:

    No. 29:
    What ONE MAN can do — there is no substitute for the individual man, who can make himself indispensable .

  31. Squid Wiz says:

    I don’t know if I see a need to eat suckling pig but I kind of like the idea of them eating a porcine product while floating in the Gulf. Sort of like a gustatory middle finger.

  32. NHSparky says:

    Wiz…be poetic justice if the biys and girls on the birdfarm that dumped OBL managed to weigh his seabag casket down with a few extra hamhocks.

    As for me, the only memorable food nights on either of my boats were the various Halfway Night meals and pizza nights (Sat. on both boats) but only to see how “creative” the cooks could get with the toppings, sauce, and cheese, especially after about day 45 underway. On my last Ustafish the cooks found out the Captain liked shrimp and broccoli pizza (God knows why.) So of course at least half the pizzas for the entire fucking Westpac were shrimp and broccoli.

  33. Marine_7002 says:

    I still have occasional flashbacks about the “Monte Christo” sandwiches that the wardroom aboard USS Iwo Jima LPH-2 (yeah, I’m carbon-dating myself) regularly (i.e., incessantly!) served for lunch while we were in and near the Persian Gulf.

    Not to mention that we seemed to have chicken 4 to 5 nights a week while underway. Even a friend of mine who was a self-confessed chicken fanatic got tired of it. How many *#*&*@!#!! ways can you make chicken? We found out.

    We thought that maybe they were really serving seagull, as we missed UNREPS a number of times and figured that the ship’s master-at-arms force was furtively shooting gulls to fill the meat locker. However, we were disabused of that notion after watching some of the MAA force shooting for practice up on the flight deck.

  34. Ex-PH2 says:

    It’s been a while, but the best Navy food was at NAVSTA Anacostia, across the field from NAVPHOTOCEN. Nothing, however, matches this: