Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Royal Syldavian Army, A Guide for Re-creating Foods and Rations

During both peacetime and war, a soldier usually received his food prepared by company cooks, in their garrison or if in the field from mobile kitchens, who were able to prepare meals from canned, fresh and dehydrated foods. The mobile kitchens allowed the cooking and feeding operations of a company to keep up with advances or to operate to the rear of a static line. Food would then be brought up to the front in insulated cans to be distributed to soldiers in the lines.

While on campaign or if the tactical considerations prohibited the bringing up of hot food for 24 hours or more, soldiers would then rely their full or half-field rations supplied by the company kitchen’s stores. The ration was carried in the soldier’s musette or “bread bag”.  The full Field Ration consisted of 300 grams of hard bread or crackers (maznica or mazek), 200-300 grams of preserved meat or Sausage (Baza or klobaza) or Stew (zka), 300 grams of preserved or canned vegetables (krajek), 25 grams of tea or coffee (tolko or vovka), and 25 grams of salt.  The half Portion consisted of canned meat and crackers only.

Supplies of the “full” Field Ration (with canned vegetables, salt, coffee, etc.) were stored with the field kitchen. Prior to beginning a tactical march or a movement to contact, troops were issued an additional day's issue of field rations if sufficient numbers were available.

What did the Field Ration look like?  While few examples of the canned meat are known to have survived the war, we do have some detailed descriptions left by soldiers.  For example, the standard meat portion of the Field Ration came packed in a can that measured 3 inches high by 2 ⅝ inches wide.  Weighing between 200 and 300 grams net, the can was normally packed with various pork or beef products.  Size had to be kept to a minimum in order for the can to fit inside the soldier’s bag.  The cans were usually labelled quite simply, since they were issued directly from the regimental store, with a descriptive paper label glued to the outside.

The hard bread/cracker portion of the Field Ration offered a bit more variety, though its taste apparently left something to be desired.  Depending upon what was available from Syldavia’s food industry, a soldier could have received 300 grams of hard bread or plain crackers.  They were occasionally issued individually or pre-packed in paper or cardboard boxes.  Again, it would have had to fit inside the “bread bag”.  This hard bread was similar to the Swedish crisp bread that is available at any modern deli.  It came packed four to a carton, with each piece measuring 5 ⅜ inches by 4 ½ inches by ¼ inches thick.  Another common substitute for fresh bread in the Field Ration was the common cracker.  These were often issued loose, directly from a tin or wooden crate, and varied in shaped, but generally measured 2 ⅛ inches by 2 ⅛ inches by 3/16 inches thick.

In the field articles requisitioned or purchased locally or shipped from the rear often supplemented the Field Ration.  As we start, it is important to note that a large portion of the field ration was packaged in cans and boxes for effective food preservation, efficient use of shipping space and protection from contamination. However, the methods of food packaging have changed considerably. The biggest developments which affects the re-creation of the rations is the use of “EZ-open” tops. Cans with “EZ-open” tops must be avoided, as these aren’t appropriate to the period.  It is the re-labeling and repackaging that allow our Syldavian rations take shape. Removing the modern label and replacing it with a Syldavian label will go a long way to creating the right look for our impression.

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