Somewhere in the world tomorrow, men and women will be gathered together far away from home.
Some will be keeping a watchful eye for dangerous activity, some will be far below the water’s surface and some will be launching aircraft in support or another mission to preserve freedom. If they are very lucky, they will be treated to a meal something like this:
OVEN ROAST OF TURKEY ~~~PRIME RIB OF BEEF
VIRGINIA BAKED HAM ~~~CORNBREAD DRESSING
MASHED POTATOES ~~~CANDIED SWEET POTATOES
NATURAL TURKEY GRAVY ~~~TASTY BROWN GRAVY
PINEAPPLE SAUCE ~~~BUTTERED CORN ON THE COB
SEASONED PEAS AND CARROTS ~~~TOSSED GREEN SALAD
SHRIMP COCKTAIL with SAUCE ~~~ASSORTED SALAD DRESSINGS
ASSORTED PICKLES ~~~ASSORTED RELISH TRAY
RIPE OLIVES and GREEN OLIVES ~~~CHEESE CUBES
CHILLED CRANBERRY SAUCE ~~~PUMPKIN PIE with ICE CREAM
HOT ROLLS BREAD BUTTER~~ FRUIT ~~CAKE ~~CANDY ~~ASSORTED NUTS
COFFEE~~ TEA~~ MILK
Starting tonight on submerged submarines everywhere, the cooks and mess cooks are probably already working to prepare the feast
I remember a few years underwater at Thanksgiving in the middle of a long patrol. The preparations started on the mid-watch as the cakes and pies were being baked. As a roving watch forward, I would stop by and check on Silas and his group to make sure they had everything they needed.
The galleys on fast boats are a lot smaller than the boomers but every inch of space is used to prepare the sumptuous feast. The breakfast and lunch meals still needed to be squeezed in but the main event had a priority that overrode all. I am sure even the non-submariner can relate to the smell of a slowly roasting turkey and the other parts of the meal. Imagine that you are stuffed inside a long metal tube closed on both ends and then you can understand the torture we went through on those days. Not that anyone wanted to escape it, but the smells permeated the whole boat for the day.
Finally, you got your chance to stand in line. Watch standers first of course but eventually the off watch guys would get lined up and wait their turn. As you come into the mess decks, you can see the autumn colored streamers and paper Mache turkey and pilgrim table settings. Little battery powered candles are the main source of light. You sit at a freshly cleaned and reset table and the mess cooks bring the platters of food. Every sense you have in your body is challenged to make you forget that you are not really on a submarine someplace in the dark ocean, but in your Grandmother’s dining room.
As the food is passed around and you discover that Navy plates have no more capacity than the fine china you may have seen as a kid. You also quickly find conversations creeping towards all ahead slow. The main sound is the sound of silverware working on the plates surface to release enough food quickly enough to fill your belly. The textures, colors, smells and flavors take you on a journey far away from the crowded mess decks filled with hungry sailors.
“Pass me the turkey plate”, “What’s the hold up on those mashed potatoes?” “Where have you guys been hiding this prime rib Silas?” “Man I’m getting full” “This dressing is the best stuff I ever ate”
As the food on the plates slowly disappear, there is still one more treat. Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream. Somehow the cooks have managed to hide a case of the real stuff in one of the refrigerators and out it comes. Pumpkin pie never tasted so good.
A very satisfied Navy cook stands in the doorway to his galley, finally able to take a breath after almost 24 hours of preparations. Most of the guys remember to thank him for such a great meal. I believe that for the four Thanksgivings I spent underwater, I could never thank those guys enough for the way they helped us forget where we were for just a few hours. God Bless every one of them.
After the meal, some would go to the torpedo room for a smoke or just to hang out. Instead of being able to watch the Detroit Lions get beat, most of the guys would end up spending the evening being reminded that we were still on patrol and it was still a dangerous world out there. Many are out there tonight.