Your trusty Betty Crocker cookbook has everything you need to know about cooking. It tells you how to check when your kumquats are ripe, how to gut a sturgeon, and what to do with boysenberries. That tattered, dog-eared book has never let you down. Until now. Why? Because 2,500 hungry young men and women are coming over to your place for dinner tonight.
Okay, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself in this position any time soon. But should 2,500 people stop by for dinner, where would you turn for help? The U.S. Navy! The Navy has spent the last couple of centuries perfecting the art of cooking for big crowds.
Few chefs look to the Navy for culinary inspiration. This is because the Navy’s gastronomic reputation was sealed from the start. Early Navy recipes for salt horse, potted pigeon, and a boiled bread called “drowned baby” were meals only hearty Sailors could stomach.
Galleys have been steadily improving meal quality for the last century, though. A combination of modern cooking technology and an increased understanding of health have brought shipboard naval cooking up to the level of many restaurants.
Skeptical? Try out a Navy recipe in your own kitchen. Below is a classic from the 1945 “Cookbook of the United States Navy.” It has been modified to feed four, instead of the original 2,500. Conveniently, one needs only two pounds of beef rather than the original 630.