Open Road Integrated Media
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Recognizing that c-ration-based meals are not always the most palatable, we asked some of our Vietnam-era veterans to share their most inventive wartime recipes.
From Tony Peluso, author of Waggoners Gap, in his own words:
Momma Peluso would send packages with cans of Hunt's tomato sauce, a small bottle of olive oil and dried herbs, like basil, oregano, bay leaf, garlic and onion salt. She would also send thin Italian spaghetti boxes and dried pepperoni sausages. Actually,... these ingredients travelled well. The challenge was to find pots to cook them in, an adequate heat source, water that didn't taste like dog shit, and a relatively sanitary spot to cook.
In January of 1969, I had three boxes of stuff and with the help of a buddy (Joe Monile) we found a hot plate, plugged it in to the one socket in our hootch and borrowed pots from the spoons at the Officer's mess.
An Khe Pasta:
1. Pour all the friggin' olive oil you've been hoarding into the sauce pot and bring to a nice simmer.
2. Add all of the dried herbs, except the garlic, which you save until later because Joe's mom in Buffalo always did it that way.
3. Drink a warm beer. Then evacuate your bladder at the tube outside the hootch. Wash your hands, thoroughly.
4. Add the pepperoni, which you have chopped up as finely as your Air Force Survival knife will permit.
5. Drink another beer, and share stories of your manly conquests in the village (mostly imagined).
6. Spoon off the greasy residue of the pepperoni from the top of the sauce.
7. Remove the Sauce from the heat because you only have one burner. Set it off to the side, covered if possible.
8. Heat the water and boil it for several minutes hoping to diminish the chlorine. If the water turns white from green, you are on the right track. No such thing as bottled water in that venue in those days.
9. After the water is boiling and white, add as much pasta as possible. Lots of hungry paratroopers who are sick to death of C-rations and LRRPs.
10. When the pasta is ready, drain and set aside.
11. Reheat the Sauce. Scoop out any of the pepperoni grease that floated to the top and now Joe's mom won't be offended if you add the garlic powder. Keep Bob Gallagher from pouring too much McElhiney's into the sauce. Bribe him with a beer if necessary. Remember to be generous with the garlic because experience has shown that garlic is the enemy of chlorine.
12. When the sauce is ready, scoop portions of pasta onto paper plates or into mess kits. Add sauce, unless you're Jeff Berg who would rather just have the noodles with Heinz Ketsup (Swear to God). Cheese would be nice, but never had any other than the squishy shit that came with Cs. We did without. There was a war on.
Tony Peluso's Waggoners Gap (ebook edition) is part of the Open Road Media Memorial Day sale — $3.99 for a limited time.