I arrived home last night after a hum drum day to a quiet house. It’s that time of the month. The Coven was gathering for their alleged monthly ‘Book Club,’ get-together which was surprising because the skies were quiet and subdued. On the evening of last month’s Circle we witnessed the biggest lightening storm in the south for years which was much more aligned with my deep seated suspicions. There was a note, ‘food in the fridge.’ She left me a mackerel. I wish she hadn’t. Now I would be the first to agree that mackerel are a fine and unfairly underrated fish but sometimes a man just needs more than a mackerel and some salad. A glass of wine cheered things along but a quick look at the television soon dampened the moment. My televisual tastes tend to be eclectic so I watched ten minutes of Australian Masterchef for inspiration before returning to my mackerel. Boy those young Aussie’s can knock together some decent scran. Their Asian-fusion-cooking-thing was way above my pay grade; impressive but why do they get so emotional? What is happening to that country? It’s only food, not a cure for cancer. In the end I gently fried my fish in butter, ate it with the pre-prepared salad and mused over the old days. What wouldn’t I give for a waltz down the old hotplate in the cookhouse?
In my time the jokes about Army catering, which were anyway a hangover from National Service days, were misplaced. I always though the Catering Corps worked miracles with the modest budgets they had to work with and on operations what they produced from the smallest of facilities was nothing short of brilliant. As a young soldier I had no complaints and as a young officer life just got better. Except when on duty as Orderly Officer. One of our duties for the day was to attend meals in the Cookhouse with the Orderly Sergeant, check the food was of a good standard and take any complaints from the boys. It was an arcane task probably left over from the Crimea or the Haldane Reforms, who knows? I found it a bit embarrassing and intrusive standing watching the lads eat and rarely were there any complaints. Except if there were no chips; that could cause a riot. No chips and no tea and the British Army ceases to function. I wish I could break the habit even now but I don’t think I ever will. In Food Top Trumps, chips beat salad every day of the week. If only Mrs Flashbang could grasp the concept….
Army cooks themselves were a resilient bunch who took and gave stick and banter across the hotplate all day long. Oh and they could shift a trolley load of beer and perform with the rest of them in their down time. And didn’t they just. The night when on guard duty as a young Jock L/Cpl, when we caught a drunk cook rogering the Officers Mess Christmas turkey, still gives me episodes. You couldn’t make it up….. Anyway, here’s the Crumble tribute to Army cooks, bless ‘em..