The Biggs' Boys

By Ken Stofer

Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved

The Cookhouse

   Mention the cookhouse to any airman and ten to one he would have said something nasty, rather than something nice about it. For the cook there certainly wasn't any glamour to the job. There was quite a difference between a fly-boy and a fry-boy. Not much thanks, and always complaints whether well-founded or not. But take away the food and the cooks who prepare it, and no aircraft would ever get off the ground.

    Behind the fire, grease and rattle of pots and pans is the administration of it all; the indenting for and purchase of foodstuffs, their inspection, checking and recording. The issue to the various Messes and to living-out personnel; maintenance of Messing accounts and ration strength details; the business of contracts for the sale of swill and bones; compilation of parade states and duty rosters, leave records, staff orders and instructions.

    The cleaning of kitchens and dining halls, and everything connected with them, was a continual process. Every day half a ton of meat was dissected in the butcher's shop and half a ton of potatoes bounced through the vegetable peeler, or were scalped by airmen on jankers (punishment).

    In every cookhouse there was a night-cook. He didn't sleep at his post. He prepared the meals for those on late duty and prepared the kitchens for the following day. He rendered and clarified the fats used for frying, for pastry and cakes and other kitchen purposes.

    In the dark of the very late night and early morning, cooks rose and lit the fires, prepared and cooked the food. On a typical day the catering staff spent hours on the diet-sheet, trying to work out new patterns from the same old lines and circles of the ration scale, balancing carbohydrates, juggling with proteins, seeing that the airman got his vitamins spread nicely over the week. Amongst the old, tried favourites they introduced one or two new dishes, because word filtered through that the airman wants more of this, less of that and none of the other. Senior cooks hovered around to see that the ingredients were just so, that the dishes were cooked for exactly the right length of time. Contrary to popular belief many cooks made an effort to introduce variety into the daily arrangement of meals and also made use of the available equipment to the best advantage. When the moment for serving arrived, the Catering Officer waited with mingled pride and apprehension; the N.C.O. i/c Messing fingered his moustache; the Senior Cook continued to hover but began to quiver; the atmosphere was charged with suspense.

    All this drama was for the hundreds of airmen who would shortly storm into the cookhouse, irons and billy-cans rattling, to fill their bellys before they went on duty. But what does the airman do? Sometimes he bolts it down and asks for more. Sometimes he eats it with lingering appreciation. Sometimes he eats half of it and pushes the rest away.

    AND sometimes he puts the lot into the waste-bin.

Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved


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