Everyone knows that Seabees work hard at making the Navy run. They build mess halls and galleys to make sure that everyone gets fed but building bases can make a Seabee hungry enough to eat a horse. Though horse is not on the menu Seabees do eat a variety of foods all designed to give them enough energy to keep ‘Can Do’ing.
“3rd Construction Battalion Seabees enjoy ‘Turkey Day’ in South Pacific. (Horace W. Mooers, Newtonville, Mass.)” Cook preparing turkeys for Thanksgiving. New Caledonia, South Pacific, WWII.
You might think that cooking for a mess of Seabees is an easy thing to do, but the Navy created several cookbooks throughout the years instructing cooks and mess attendants on what to cook and why they needed to cook specific foods. The cookbooks came packed with information, everything from nutritional value of foods to baking guidelines and even how to troubleshoot common cooking difficulties.
Menu planning was taken seriously and included tips on making sure nutritional needs were met, likes and dislikes of the sailors and making sure the climate was taken into consideration when preparing meals. Sample menus were also given for each season with a meal planned out for breakfast, dinner and supper for every day of the week. The sample menus even included drink options, most of which was milk or coffee.
Other aspects of food preparation were also dealt with including sanitary needs, how to deal with canned and dehydrated foods, weight equivalents and baking. Each aspect was given a quick introduction and how to handle unique problems that might occur. Many tips given in these cook books are still useful today including what to do if your cookies spread out too much (tip: reduce the baking soda in the dough) to substitutions for the perfect barbeque sauce (tip: fruit juice or frozen sweet pickles can be used in place of vinegar).
In the end the goal of these cook books was simply to give the Seabees, and the rest of the Navy, a good meal that would give them the energy to continue working. The difference between the Seabees and the rest of the Navy was that the Seabees not only got to eat what was cooked in the mess halls, but they also got to put them together. The Seabees worked quickly and efficiently in order to build the mess halls and galleys. To this day when the cooks hear the Seabees are coming to town they know they are about to get a kitchen and everyone knows they are about to get a hot meal. So thank you Seabees for making sure we have a place to chow down!
Visit our Facebook page and tell us what some of your favorite, or least favorite, meals you have had while deployed! #SeabeeCanDo
Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from the University of Kansas and M.L.S. from Emporia State University. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast. In Washington D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Administration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history lead her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison.