For Veteran's Day I like to take a look at some item of military cuisine. Last year we took a look at the giant bag of dehydrated eggs that comes in a UGR (Unitized Group Ration). In the past we have also reviewed an MRE and a Heater Meal (there are a lot of fellow New Yorkers subsisting on these as we speak by the way).
Creamed chipped beef was once a ubiquitous breakfast option for the US military, particularly during the WWII era, where it earned the moniker S.O.S. (variously "shit on a shingle," "stuff on a shingle," "something on a shingle," etc...).
I have been involved in the military in various capacities for the past decade or so and don't ever remember being served creamed beef. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of "creamed" stuff (mostly sausage or ground beef) served with toast/biscuits for breakfast. But I don't think I remember any chipped beef. I never had any special love or disdain for creamy breakfast slop, but I think some guys found it nauseating.
The generally bad feelings generated by creamed chipped beef in most Americans is what I find interesting. The dish was served ad nauseum to the military during WWII. When those millions of boyos came back home afterwards they brought their ill will towards the creamy concoction with them. That feeling was passed on to their families and friends and has persisted to this day.
The culinary implications of war often go unnoticed. I find them fascinating -- carrot cake becoming common during wartime sugar rationing and the reduction in types of cheese produced as a result of WWII... You know, stuff like that.
Anyhow, the Knauss creamed chipped beef is pretty much what you would expect. A salty, viscous, pouch of gloop spotted with little scabby bits of thin chipped beef. I had it on some toast and while struggling through a bit it occurred to me that if done exactly right (quality cream and butter), creamed chipped beef might not be that bad.... After some hard work on a cold day, some creamed beef spooned on hot biscuits is probably just the thing....
As an aside, the recipe for a Boboli breakfast pizza on the back of the bag made me laugh. I appreciate Knauss' pluck in trying to wedge the stuff into a recipe.
Well, I know these posts are a diversion from my normal subject matter but it is my opinion that shining a little light onto some of the everyday aspects of military life (such as food) is useful in helping people understand how service in the military shapes a person.
I don't really know how I feel about Veteran's Day to tell you the truth... I am proud of my service, but somehow the day makes me a little uncomfortable. I don't know why. I think I am much prouder of the service of others (especially my lovely wife), so I guess I thank all of them very much.
As I am always fond of reminding everyone, it is not just the tall, crew cut, stick up the ass types (like me) who are veterans. It is also the young mother, pushing a baby carriage, at Price Chopper (like my wife). So hold the damn door.