Monday, January 20, 2003

This article in the LA Times on food in the US Navy's submarines (via aldaily ) is quite interesting. Basically, the Navy goes to great trouble to serve submarine crews the finest food possible: submarine cooks are trained in some of the finest restaurants and cooking schools in America (and sometimes elsewhere), and after serving in submarines many of them go on to become chefs in top restaurants themselves, to cook for the President in the White House, or even to teach in top cooking schools. Basically the deal is that when you coop 140 men up in a tiny space for three months, during which time they are mostly unable to communicate with anyone off the sub, keeping up morale is tremendously important. Still, this sounds good.

Rico says the Jefferson City's cooks try to keep up an eclectic menu -- a fusion of Asian, European and American cuisine that could have easily been lifted from any upscale restaurant.

Breakfast is hearty, with bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, French toast and grilled steaks, depending on the day. Grits and oatmeal made from scratch are standard offerings, as are fresh-baked doughnuts and omelets made to order.

A lunch menu on a recent Monday consisted of French onion soup, spinach lasagna and Italian sausage, followed by a dinner that included egg drop soup, teriyaki steak, Cajun blackened fish and pork fried rice.

A salad bar is standard for lunch and dinner as well as ice cream and a variety of cakes baked each day for dessert.

On Tuesday, the main lunch dishes were grilled steaks and broiled lobster, with seasoned wax beans and sauteed mushrooms with onions. For dinner, the crew had Dijon baked pork chops with natural pan gravy, simmered pasta and sesame glazed green beans.

Plus there is the simple fact that the number of people who serve in submarines is small, and the total effort in feeding them well isn't all that large and doesn't cost all that much. Assuming that half of the 73 submarines are at sea at any one time, that is a total of about 5000 people who have to be fed this way. That is much less than the crew of a single aircraft carrier. I was given a tour of the carrier USS Constellation once. We did briefly stick our heads into the mess room, and the sailors were being given plates of mass produced spaghetti bolognese. It looked perfectly edible, and perfectly nourishing, but it looked like institutional food everywhere - not all that exciting. Presumably this is par for the course for the rest of the navy.

The article also has this tantalising glimpse of another country.

British submarine crews have the added luxury of a small bar with ale on tap, but alcohol is prohibited on U.S. Navy vessels.

It doesn't say anything about the food the British submariners are served, however. Fish and chips, anyone? And do French submarines have large wine cellars?

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