June 16, 2017
My apologies for my recent absence from this blog. I got food poisoning, which was followed by a severe intestinal infection. Which explains why, after eating jello and puddings for 12 weeks, I want to talk about....
Ever try to put together a delicious, varied meal for a bunch of people in a kitchen of a small apartment...with five other chefs helping you? When each shift of diners comprises 24 people, most of whom eat two helpings of everything, and have only 15 minutes to chow down before the next group comes in?
The whole prospect makes me want to jump off a cliff.
(At my house, when TWO chefs are working in the tiny kitchen, we tacitly agree to keep the sharp utensils in the drawers.)
The Navy considered Great Food as a reward for Hazardous Duty. Vice Admiral Joe Williams said, “We had three things going for us: The quality of food and the amount that was served. The music on board. And the reading materials.” Remember, these people are away from their home and family for lonnnng periods of time.
This piece is mostly about the nuclear attack sub USS Jefferson City. Such subs may stay submerged for 90 straight days.
Well, this one's galley has placed fourth among more than 100 subs for its excellence. It has also won the Blue E (for Excellence) award in its squadron.
Not only is the food great, and plentiful—they don't portion-control, they don't waste, but they never run short—but the mess area has bright orange seats and tables, wall décor, an ice cream station, a salad bar, and a coffee station. Service, not surprisingly, is buffet style. Most diners eat two portions, which is why virtually everyone gains an average of ten pounds per deployment.
[Hmm. 10 pounds in 90 days? Pikers.]
There is a single exercise bike in the engine room. The crew totals 130-140. I don't know if there's a waiting list for the bike.
The sailors have no weight limit, but they have to be able to fit on their bunks.
There's not a lot to look forward to on the long patrols, so the cameraderie and socialization and laughter at a great meal can make chowtime the highlight of the day.
The galley team must provide nutrition, variety, eye appeal and palate-pleasure ...keeping in mind that the FRESH provisions such as fruits and vegetables usually run out in about 10 days. They rotate meat and poultry entrees (grilled, fried, baked, etc.) and love to surprise the crew with unusual pies. They even crafted a taco bowl that can be submerged in a fryer.
(Well, it does figure that submerging would occur to the chefs of a submarine.)
Food is presented with the colors pre-thought-out. The orange chicken even has that shiny glaze and is sprinkled with fresh green onions and sesame seeds. Food is more than nutrition, and as they say, you eat with your eyes before you pick up your fork.
The Jefferson City has a former French pastry chef. He prepares fancy desserts.
A typical dinner menu: prime rib roast, baked lobster tails, sauteed mushrooms, baked potatoes, beef rice soup, and of course salad bar, ice cream bar, and coffee bar.
They have Italian Day, Mexican Day, Sliders Day... and the night shift gets leftovers from lunch and dinner ...and no one complains. And you can make your own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch.
And the galley makes its own sausage. Fresh!
I've hinted at the richness and variety of the available fare, but do yourself a favor. Check out the links below to get a typical week's menu and find out about what it takes to store—and replenish-- and pay for-- sub grub.
And it is sooooo worth it... for rewarding those who are protecting our country.
Spoiler alert: do it when you AREN'T hungry.