Navy Cooks: May the Packey Schwartz Be With You

By Therese Gonzalez, National Museum of the American Sailor Museum Specialist

It’s been said that the “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and for the United States Navy, that saying is certainly appropriate. Food builds not just bodies, but also morale. As stated in U.S. Navy and What It Offers, 1920, a “good cook is one of the most popular men aboard ship.” Throughout the National Museum of the American Sailor’s collection, there are numerous examples of the importance of the Navy’s “good cooks.” One cook who worked at Naval Training Station Great Lakes during World War I was 1st Class Cook Packey

Cook 1st Class Packey Scwartz cutting meat

Cook 1st Class Packey Scwartz at U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IL, c.1918.

Schwartz. Schwartz’s job was to cook for all of the new sailors in the “Receiving Camp.” Known for his mess skills, Schwartz reputedly turned down attempts to move him to the main side of the Station, arguing that “when the sailors were new and homesick and lonely, you couldn’t baby them but you could give them a good meal and make them feel better.”

According to Munsey Magazine:

Much of the credit for the excellent condition of the men at the end of their first twenty-one days undoubtedly belongs to Packey Schwartz, first-class cook, in charge of the detention-camp galley…he is a great believer in first impressions. He holds that the sight of the galley banked in flowers and surrounded by grass, gardens, and an aquarium, has

a lasting effect on the green boy who gets his first taste of navy life in detention-camp.

In a letter home from a World War I sailor serving at the same time as Schwartz, he raved about the food. He wrote, “mother, believe me, the chow is great. I never realized I

Cook 1st Class Packey Scwartz preparing chicken at U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IL, c.1918.

Cook 1st Class Packey Scwartz preparing chicken at U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IL, c.1918.

had such an appetite until I joined the Navy. We get good wholesome food and plenty of it. I used to think before I was in the Navy that about all one got to eat was beans, but now I have been convinced to the contrary.”

Good cooks continue to play an important role in today’s Navy as Culinary Specialists (CS). There are more than 7,000 CSs currently deployed around the globe. Together, they feed on average more than ninety-two million meals per year. Just like First Class Cook Packey Schwartz and the other cooks who came before them, today’s CSs continue to play an important role in building morale.

Culinary Specialist 1st Class Matthew Susienka

Culinary Specialist 1st Class Matthew Susienka during Chicago Navy Week, 2010

“When we are on long deployments away from our families and friends, a small ounce of what you have from home, like a home cooked meal, anything to give our shipmates comfort at the end of the day is a huge impact,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Matthew Susienka, an instructor and member of the Navy’s culinary arts team. “If the CS puts some passion in a meal, it makes a world of difference to the crew. You want a productive crew? A well-fed crew will make for a productive crew.”

What are your memories of Navy food and the Navy’s “good cooks”? What was your favorite (or perhaps not-so-favorite) meal? Tell us about your memories in the Comments section!

 

 

4 thoughts on “Navy Cooks: May the Packey Schwartz Be With You

  1. I used to get the paper put out by the Tin Can Sailors Association. It always featured “That Good Navy Food” including a recipe that was used in the chow halls of the Navy. The recipes were crew size – NOT reduced to family size!

    Great post!

    Like

  2. Pingback: What’s for Dinner? | Sailor's Attic

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