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.
“I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.”
—Pearl S. Buck
We are thrilled to announce the addition of fifteen classic titles by the legendary Pearl S. Buck to the Open Road ebook collection on May 21, 2013. In celebration, we’re sharing this rare archival photo from 1964, when Buck addressed an... audience on the issues of poverty and discrimination faced by children in Korea.
A bestselling and Nobel Prize–winning author of fiction and nonfiction, Buck was the daughter of missionaries and spent much of the first half of her life in the East, where many of her books are set. As an American who had been raised in China, and who had been affected by both the Boxer Rebellion and the 1927 Nanking Incident, Buck was able to give her western readers an intimate sense of a vastly misunderstood culture. In Imperial Woman, for example, Buck brings to life the incredible story of Tzu Hsi, a beautiful and charming woman who rose from the lowly status of concubine to become the working head of the Qing Dynasty and one of the most powerful figures in modern history. Much has been written about Tzu Hsi, but no other work recreates her life in such brilliant and vivid detail.
Buck, however, was not only interested in China, and set stories in Japan (A Bridge for Passing), India (Come, My Beloved), and America (The Angry Wife), too. Because of this, she was able to employ fiction as a means to explore the many differences between East and West, from tradition and modernity, as well as the hardships of impoverished people during times of social upheaval.
Buck's fascinating life story is fully chronicled in her memoir, My Several Worlds, a book that is not only an important reflection on China’s recent history, but also an account of her re-engagement with the US. The intense activity that characterized her life makes for a thrilling read—one that brilliantly explores many of the landmark themes of her story, including her prolific career as novelist, her loves and many friendships, and her work with Welcome House, which she founded in 1949 as the first international, interracial adoption agency in the United States.
Though her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Good Earth, was a massive success in the US, the Chinese government objected to Buck’s stark portrayal of the country’s rural poverty and, in 1972, prohibited her from returning to the country. Despite this blow, as well as her death of lung cancer a year later, she was still considered, in the words of China’s first premier, Zhou Enlai, to have been such “a friend of the Chinese people,” that her former house in Zhenjiang is now a museum in honor of her legacy.