Time changes many things, but the saying “An army marches on its stomach,” attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, remains true today.
The rations we supply to the troops have improved over the years, from K and C rations to today’s MREs. Even the food the troops line up for at the mess hall has improved with offerings now including salad bars and Parmesan-crusted chicken.
That is quite an improvement for anyone who ever stood in that long line, and will never forget SOS (an acronym for a term that cannot be printed in a family newspaper), chopped beef in a cream sauce, served over white bread toast.
My father, a 35-year army veteran, made it for us on Sunday mornings. Mess hall pancakes can still be found on that breakfast buffet, and you can bet your last dollar that somewhere out there Spam is being served.
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So today in honor of Veterans Day, which is Saturday, I’m sharing three recipes inspired by the military mess halls of yesteryear.
Chipped Beef on Toast (SOS)
If you want to try something different in this recipe, substitute chopped smoked sausage for ground beef.
1-pound ground beef or 1 cup chopped smoked sausage
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cube beef bouillon
2-3 pinches salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Brown the beef or sausage in a cast iron skillet, if you have one, otherwise, use a heavy bottom sauté pan. Remove the beef and set aside, drain off the excess grease. Add butter and flour and make a brown roux. Add the bouillon and dissolve. Whisk in the milk, then the Worcestershire sauce. Add the beef, stir, season and taste. Re-season as needed. Simmer until thick, serve on buttered toast.
Mess Hall Pancakes
If you must cheat, use a good mix, such as Bisquick. The original mess hall recipe is measured in gallons. Top with fresh fruit, for a healthy option.
⅓ cup buttermilk
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoons sugar
2 pinches salt
1 tablespoons baking powder
1 ¼ cup cake flour
⅓ cup bread flour
1 ½ tablespoons shortening
Using a mixer makes this recipe a bit easier, but a large hand whisk will get the job done as well. Combine all the ingredients and mix, making sure there are no lumps. Add a large spoonful at a time to a greased skillet, when bubbles appear on the up-side, turn carefully with a spatula. Keep warm until ready to serve. If you want to make this a Southern recipe, serve with butter and sorghum molasses.
This may not be a mess hall standard, but I thought we could have some fun with Spam, but it is delicious.
Thick sliced Spam
Sliced tomatoes, pickles and lettuce
Cheese of your choice.
If health is not a concern, deep fry the Spam until golden brown, otherwise, brown in an oiled heavy bottom skillet. Toast the bread, add the Spam, top with cheese and toast until the cheese is melted. Dress and serve at once.