Oliver's message and another one from Melinda in early January about food on ships reminded me of a cook book I recently bought for my wife. As many of you know, my entire family volunteers as crew aboard the restored Liberty ship S.S. John W. Brown in Baltimore. On cruises my wife frequently helps out in the stewards department (meaning meal planning, preparation and clean-up). For the three-week cruise the Brown made last summer, her responsibility was to set up the officers mess before each meal, then clean up afterward. "Just like being at home," she remarked more than once.
I digress. One of the cookbooks the chief steward on the Brown has is an authentic World War II-era cookbook, published in the 1940s by the War Shipping Administration, titled "Cooking and Baking on Shipboard." Apparently it was a textbook issued to each new merchant marine cook and baker while going through training and used thereafter as a reference once assigned to a ship. My wife had seen the book and asked me to find one for her via the internet, which I did. There were a few offered at prices of $60 and up but I found one for $26 which turned out to be in perfect condition except for that musty smell of an old book.
The book is oversized in hard cover, 358 pages, and filled with everything the onboard cook and baker needed to know. There are over 300 recipes for every kind of food imaginable, a large section on baking and other sections on cutting large pieces of meat to serving size, menu planning, personal safety, sanitation, care of equipment, conversion tables, etc. Interestingly, all of the recipes are designed to serve 100 persons. I doubt there were very many merchant ships with merchant marine/Armed Guard crews of 100 but I suppose a recipe for 100 is easily scalable to smaller crew sizes. As you might expect most of the recipes are for simple and filling meals, probably high in calories.
There is a recipe for meat balls, Oliver, with no mention of calling them porcupines, but this was an official cookbook, after all. For meat balls for 100 (that would be recipe #58 on page 80), use 31 lbs. of ground beef, 6 lbs. of dry bread broken in pieces, 3 lbs. of onions, chopped fine, 1 lb. of eggs, 1/2 cup of fat, 3/4 cup of salt, 5 t. of pepper, 1 qt. of beef stock and you're good to go. The serving size per person is two 4-ounce meat balls. That sounds like a pretty big meat ball. And there is a recipe variation that calls for 3 lbs. uncooked rice to be substituted for the bread in the primary recipe. So maybe those are the porcupines Oliver's father described.
Scrambled eggs for 100, anyone? Start with 13 dozen eggs...
Ron Carlson, Webmaster