Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chow Line

My youngest and I went to see the “Art of the American Soldier” exhibit at the National Constitution Center this weekend…it is a show not to be missed. The fortitude, resiliency and courage of our troops, not to mention their humor to help manage their often times dismal situations, are commendable. As the name suggests, the show is a montage of paintings, drawings, cartoons and photographs created by military artists whose mission was/is to capture life as an American soldier….some are humorous (like the soldier in the bath tub!), most moving and hard to imagine. Equally moving are the stories the soldiers, from WWII to our present conflicts, tell on the iPods that the NCC issues as part of the exhibit. If you have a pulse, you will tear up, I promise. At the end of the exhibit, each visitor has the opportunity to write a post card that the NCC will send to our soldiers….please do. A very poignant exhibit. The photo above is my dad (on the right) and a buddy, taken in Europe, in 1943.

What does this have to do with cooking or knitting, you ask? During WWII the troops were issued K rations. First used in 1942 by U.S. Airborne troops on an experimental basis, the K ration was initially praised for its ease of use and (relative) variety of culinary (I use this term very loosely!) offerings. According to Wikipedia, the Supper Unit consisted of "canned meat, either chicken paté or pork luncheon meat with carrot and apple (1st issue), beef and pork loaf (2nd issue), or sausages; biscuits; a 2-ounce D ration emergency chocolate bar, Tropical bar, or (in temperate climates) commercial sweet chocolate bar; a packet of toilet paper tissues; a 4-pack of cigarettes; chewing gum, and a bouillon soup cube or powder packet.” There was also a breakfast and lunch version.

I learned from the exhibit that some K rations from WWII were issued during more recent conflicts…holy cow, the military takes its non-perishable mission seriously! More wholesome (and preservative free) treats sometimes arrive in the mail and, especially during wartime, soldiers eagerly anticipate “mail call.” In addition to letters from moms, dads, siblings, and sweethearts, there were/are often packages with cakes, cookies and other baked goodies from home. Mail call has always been a soldier’s favorite time of the day – the written connection from home helps to make the separation tolerable – and receiving a package with a baked goodie was a welcome and shared surprise!

Thank a soldier today for their service!

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