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Submarine Cuisine


Jason Perlow
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I'm sure you've seen the movie Das Boot -- the scene where the captain is showing the journalist all the food and alcohol they store on board (and its huge importance for morale) just kills me. My husband was in the German navy for his required service, and says there was a good deal of drinking on board. I can't imagine this is the case on American ships? Or is it?

Nope, we are as dry as the Sahara and our only oasis is upon Return to Port. God Bless the Busch, Boddington, Guiness, and Bass Family Brewery's.

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First I want to thank you for your military service, and then I want to thank you for taking and diligently answering our questions.  I am so much in awe of this thread that I can't even think of a question right now.  It is fascinating, and it is very touching to me.  I looked at your profile and you are barely a year older than my son.  Congratulations on your achievements!  They are very impressive.

My son has been in the Navy for two or three years now.  (I have lost track of his time.)  He is an NFO and will be carrier based, navigating the Super Hornet.  He expects to be deployed in the spring.  His grandfather was a submariner in WWII.  When you said the food on carriers sucks, I thought oh my.....  But it's good to hear that overall the Navy has good food.  He invited and escorted me to his first Dining Out, and it was a great dining experience!  Great food and wine, and lots of Port and toasts afterwards...  :biggrin:  From that I can attest to good food and drink from the Navy.

I wish you the best and thanks again.

Thank you for you Support, Susan from Florida. I am glad you had a great time with you son, but if you REALLY want to have a good time, you should have a dining out with Chief Petty Officers! LOL. We tend to be a weeeeee bit more rambunctious (sp?) than our commissioned brethren.

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Behemoth, for the most part, US Navy ships are officially dry. On occasion on long deployments, a ration of canned beer may be issued, usually in the context of a 'steel beach' party or something like that. Much earlier in her Navy career, when my wife was deployed on an aircraft carrier, and the deployment was extended, a few pallets of beer were delivered on board by the COD (carrier onboard delivery) cargo aircraft, and everyone was given a can. They also no longer have the 'medicinal alcohol' in the sickbay, like they used to in earlier times.

I once had the opportunity to tour a British boomer, and was charmed to see that on their mess deck, they had an actual two-tap beer dispenser. I believe the officers also had hard liquor available, perhaps the traditional British tot of rum. The boat was in Norfolk, and I got to tour it as a Navy dependent. God knows there should be some benefits to being married to a female Chief....... :blink:

Edited by MGLloyd (log)

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Bubblehead, tell them how you handle the garbage!  I bet they will be fascinated.

Garbage is positively my least favorite aspect of my job. We have 3 kinds of trash on board.

1st is pulpable food waste. That just goes down a grinder not too dissimilar to the ones most of us have at home. Then it goes into a storage tank and when it gets full, we feed the interesting underwater sea life.

2nd is dry, compactable trash. That we put into a 13" in diameter 27" tall aluminum can with holes in it. We then compress it with a 3000 lb hydraulic ram. Repeat until can is full and weighs 50-60 lbs. The problem with this is when you arent paying attention and somebody puts a piece of wet trash in 3000 lb hydraulics, you get a very very VERY disgusting shower (through the holes in the can) with whatever liquid was formerly in the can. When we have enough cans, we open what is basically a torpedo tube going out the bottom of the boat and create artificial reefs for the interesting underwater sea life.

3rd is wet trash. That goes into the same cans but double lined with cloth bag to prevent leakage. The bag is biodegradable and in approximately 2 weeks degrades enough to feed the interesting underwater sea life.

All told, it is quite the pain dealing with the waste from 150 people a day.

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.....but if you REALLY want to have a good time, you should have a dining out with Chief Petty Officers! LOL. We tend to be a weeeeee bit more rambunctious (sp?) than our commissioned brethren.

LOL, there was a table with Chief Petty Officers near our table. They were a rowdy bunch! And I must say they did appear to be having slightly more laughter than everyone else, and might have been having the most fun of all. I was kind of curious and had I not been on my best behavior, I might have wandered over to them to share in what was going on.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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. . . the interesting underwater sea life.

:laugh::laugh::laugh: Thank you for my GulleyLaugh of the day. During my past career, I spent a bit of time on offshore oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. They had a very similar trash sorting regime. Of course, all but the "fish food" went back to shore on the supply boats since that was an option. If you were out far enough to be in the blue water, barracuda of impressive size would hang around. Some even got names. We are talking BIG. I am sure the critters look forward to your offerings. :biggrin:

I wonder, if you are just slowly cruising along, if you get any "camp followers." :laugh:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Thanks for doing this. It never ceases to amaze me what will end up showing up here.

1) What have you made that almost caused a mutiny. Is there something that you though was just great that, well, ended up not being exactly popular?

2) Is there a budget that you have to adhere to, in terms of dollars? Or do you just pretty much have at it and no one complains?

3) Do you resupply at sea at all, or is it always in an American port of call?

4) How many people are on your staff and how many hours a day do they work? What are the shifts like?

5) Do you bake everyday? Bread, yeast rolls, etc.?

Thanks again. This is pretty much fascinating

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I have to say that, to this civilian, this is an absolutely fascinating thread! Thank you so much for participating on eGullet!

Aye, matey!! All the land-lubbers in cyberspace find your seafaring stories just fascinating!!

Just a few weeks ago, some ex-military guys at work spoke of maritime munchies and declared, "The Navy gets the gravy," meaning the Navy gets the best grub. Thanks for confirming it.

And the next time you dock on land, make sure to alert the local eGulleteers. We'll feed you mighty well on dry land. :smile:

There are two sides to every story and one side to a Möbius band.

borschtbelt.blogspot.com

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Is turbulence an issue? Do you have to put away the knives when maneuvers are being performed? I suppose you go through training so you know how to quickly secure everything if the boat is attacked.

The standard answer is, "we are always 'stowed for sea'" meaning that everything is in it place at all times. Only the cutting board, knife, and whatever it is that you are prepping is out. In reality, we use the same tricks as any other cook. We use damp side towels under our pans to hold them still and the like. It does get challenging however when your kitchen tilts 20 degrees up and 15 to the side at the same time. Or when you are on the surface in the North Atlantic doing 20 degree rolls from side to side for 15 hours. On top of everything flying around, you have to contend with sea sickness (yes, we get sea sick, dont laugh even the toughest, saltiest sailor will get queasy after doing that for awhile). But, for the most part everything stays in lockers, in specially made shelving, and the like.

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You said that people can bring on one food item each. What sorts of things do people choose to bring on? Do they have some kind of shelf or locker where they are expected keep these items, or do they keep them with their clothing and such?

My experience cooking for young adults is that many, especially men, are condiment-happy. Is this the case for your fellow sailors? How much hot sauce do you go through on a 45-day mission?

Are you allowed to cook with alcohol?

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. . . the interesting underwater sea life.

Are there observation windows where you can watch them? Do you ever go fishing when the boat is at the surface? That would be awesome. "Join the navy, see the world and eat all the seafood!"

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I'm pretty sure only research subs have windows... otherwise it would be a potential weak point considering it is a military vessel and it is heavily pressurised -- its not configured the same way a small research sub is, its basically one tube inside another. Unlike submarines before it the USS Virginia doesn't even use a traditional optical periscope, it uses a sophisticated hi-resolution digital TV camera link called a "Photonic Mast" system, it's the first boat to have it.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Thanks for doing this. It never ceases to amaze me what will end up showing up here.

1) What have you made that almost caused a mutiny. Is there something that you though was just great that, well, ended up not being exactly popular?

2) Is there a budget that you have to adhere to, in terms of dollars? Or do you just pretty much have at it and no one complains?

3) Do you resupply at sea at all, or is it always in an American port of call?

4) How many people are on your staff and how many hours a day do they work? What are the shifts like?

5) Do you bake everyday? Bread, yeast rolls, etc.?

Thanks again. This is pretty much fascinating

Well, there are always the "off" meals, but I haven't made anything so bad that they wanted to mutiny. There was the time I went overboard with the cumin for the Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Soup..... And then if we dont have fresh fruits and vegetables on the pier when we get in somewhere. That never fails to p**s somebody off.

I dont have a "budget" in hard dollars or anything. I get a certain amount for every person onboard ($7.56/day) and can go over/under budget every month until the end of the fiscal year when I have to account for all my rations and dollars spent on food. The goal is to use every dollar they give you and make sure your crew is fed.

We will resupply wherever we can, wherever in the world we are. But due to customs requlations, we have to have all foreign fruits and vegetables off prior to returning to a US port. Canned and frozen foods have to be minimized but we don't have to get rid of them like we do fruits and veggies.

I have 5 cooks that work for me. Thier hours on watch run between 14 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week at sea and 10-12 hours a day in port with a rotating duty day usually every 3-4 days where they have to stay onboard all night. I generally work 18-20 hours a day at sea and catch cat naps when I can.

Yes, we bake fresh bread every meal except midrats. We make all our breakfast pastries from scratch (definitely not my strong suit). We try to make the breakfast pastry something easy to pick up and eat on the run, so not a lot of the more exotic pastries. I will cheat and use commercial mille fuelle just because it takes so long to make 100 portions of it. We do a lot of muffins, yeast raised donuts, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. For lunch and dinner we will make biscuits, hot rolls, french bread, oatmeal rolls, or something like that.

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I'm pretty sure only research subs have windows...

. . . . .

Yeah . . . But you have that sonar and the fish noises. (I have read all of the Clancy novels. :biggrin: ) I will bet that they know if the fishies are munching the garbage. :laugh:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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You said that people can bring on one food item each. What sorts of things do people choose to bring on? Do they have some kind of shelf or locker where they are expected keep these items, or do they keep them with their clothing and such?

My experience cooking for young adults is that many, especially men, are condiment-happy. Is this the case for your fellow sailors? How much hot sauce do you go through on a 45-day mission?

Are you allowed to cook with alcohol?

Most guys will bring soda. On my boat they don't really need to bring much else because I bring a lot of candy, popcorn, and other "geedunk" (junkfood) for them. If they do bring stuff, they have to store it in thier rack so it really is an issue of underwear or soda? not much of a choice. Underwear usually wins.

On my last run that lasted 90 days, I went through:

576 10 oz bottles of hot sauce

1920 16 oz bottles of mayo

well over 3000 18 oz bottles of Ketchup

about 900 10 oz bottles of yellow mustard

9000 lbs of flour

300 dz eggs

1500 lbs sugar

1400 lbs of pasta (spaghetti, egg noodles, lasagna, elbow macaroni, angel hair)

3200 lb ribeye roll

2800 lb chicken

just a few of my 900 line item inventory

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. . . the interesting underwater sea life.

Are there observation windows where you can watch them? Do you ever go fishing when the boat is at the surface? That would be awesome. "Join the navy, see the world and eat all the seafood!"

No, no windows. I have gone fishing from my boat but it really depends on the Captain. It is really up to his discretion. That and since we spend most of our time submerged, there isnt much opportunity to fish anyway. But, I know a lot of die hard fisherman that have chartered fishing boats in every port we pulled in to.

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I'm pretty sure only research subs have windows... otherwise it would be a potential weak point considering it is a military vessel and it is heavily pressurised -- its not configured the same way a small research sub is, its basically one tube inside another. Unlike submarines before it the USS Virginia doesn't even use a traditional optical periscope, it uses a sophisticated hi-resolution digital TV camera link called a "Photonic Mast" system, it's the first boat to have it.

I am beginining to think Mr. Perlow knows as much about my boat as I do! Well done sir. Yes, we use the photonics system and we are the first to have it. The image of a submarine control room you have had for years was completely off base until the Virginia came out. We now have a submarine that looks like the movies. We have hi def plasma screen TV's throughout the boat that can "see" what photonics can see. It is really amazing.

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I'm pretty sure only research subs have windows...

. . . . .

Yeah . . . But you have that sonar and the fish noises. (I have read all of the Clancy novels. :biggrin: ) I will bet that they know if the fishies are munching the garbage. :laugh:

Believe it or not, the fish aren't the noise offenders.....its the SHRIMP. Imagine 5000000000000000 people snapping thier fingers at the same time and that is what it sounds like. If only I could drag a net....we would be eating WELL that night!

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If only the Food Channel had some imagination! Talk about a great Reality TV series. It has everything: food, travel, hot guys....

I am completely impressed by how much baking you do. Fresh dinner rolls! Hamburger buns! Mille Feuille dough on board. Do you ever hear your sailors grumble that food at home on leave can't compare to what you and your brigade give them at sea?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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If only the Food Channel had some imagination!  Talk about a great Reality TV series. It has everything: food, travel, hot guys....

I am completely impressed by how much baking you do.  Fresh dinner rolls!  Hamburger buns!  Mille Feuille dough on board.  Do you ever hear your sailors grumble that food at home on leave can't compare to what you and your bridage give them at sea?

It would make a great reality show until we have to edit almost all of thier tapes because we are on mission and everything is hush hush. We did however just have a video crew from the National Geographic team just ride us for a week and get some pretty good shots of the galley and food prep. A lot of it will probably be cut though because they were there for the technology, not the food. The film crew certainly ate well, but thier mission is thier mission.

About the guys.....we have a saying. "A bitc*ing sailor is a happy sailor". Nowhere is this more prevelent than about the food. They all appreciate the food, but EVERYBODY (including me) would rather have crap food at home with my pregnant wife and daughter (who turns 2 today!!!!, Happy Birthday Grace), than all the lobster and prime rib in the world out to sea.

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Chief Bubblehead (BTW, 'bubblehead' is a term used to describe a submariner, like 'jarhead' describes a Marine, or 'airdale' describes a Naval aviator) is too gracious to point out that in addition to the long duty watches put in by his sailors, much of their off time is spent studying. They are either studying for advancement, to pass the tests to move up in rank, or if they are new to the Submarine Service, are studying to win their dolphins, and be submarine qualified. It makes for a very long day. Imagine working under those conditions, with those hours, in a very small kitchen, to turn out wonderful meals for your fellow sailors.

I thank Chief Bubblehead and his fellow sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen for their service to our country. The men and women of our military that I have met, and I have met quite a few over the years, make me proud to be an American citizen.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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