Can the Army’s 1942 Cookbook Help Feed Your Next Party?

It includes eel-skinning advice

Soldiers cooking
Army Ski Troopers cook food after performing drills during "Operation Snowdrop" circa 1947 in Pine Camp, New York.
Irving Haberman/IH Images/Getty Images

Have you ever needed to bake pies for you and your hundred closest friends? Did you ever stumble across five pounds of beef and seven gallons of beef stock and then wonder what you might do with it? What about determining the best use for several dozen eggs?

There’s a book that recently celebrated its 80th birthday that can provide answers to all of these questions. It’s been utilized in a variety of climates and on multiple continents, in dedicated structures and out in the field. Some know it as The Army Cook; others refer to it as TM 10-405. And if you’ve ever wondered what the U.S. Army was eating in 1942, this cookbook offers plenty of details.

The Army Cook includes advice on thawing frozen beef, the proper technique for skinning eels and the pros and cons of cooking with fat. There are also countless instructions on the best way to set up different spaces for cooking, both on base and in the field. And — as a recent Task and Purpose article points out — some of the recipes have aged better than others.

In the “aged well” camp, there’s pineapple ice. which sounds quite tasty. In the “dear lord, no” category, how does seven pounds of stewed prunes sound? Military history and culinary history don’t often converge, but when they do, it can make for fascinating reading.


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