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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Army Cooking...Cuisine Militaire.. Militärisches Kochen...

Potatoes lyonnaiseImage via Wikipedia

Army Cooking...differently!


(EN/GER/FR – choose the album required)
*********
(Republished May 2011....)

November 2007 - Army style International Cooking.

 Just the other day somebody asked me if I knew how to make 
things called “Roestlis”.
Stupid question, I know how to make anything in the kitchen, 
the only problem is having open and easy access to the 
ingredients necessary!
In this case, not too difficult, because a “Roestli” is the Swiss 
German word given to a simple dish made from potatoes
 and with or without onions, eggs, salt and 
pepper, together with any form of spice or herb one wishes.
The famous, well known ones, are savoury, with onions, garlic 
(optional), fried in goose or duck fat preferably, although 
butter can be used, as a sort of “open omelette” and served 
traditionally with Apple puree.
It can also be made as a dessert, without the onions, and 
using Yams (sweet potatoes), some sugar and the spices 
used in sweet dishes – garnished with comfiture or honey 
or chocolate sauce etc..
In both cases, the method is the same:
Peel potatoes or yams, grate them, slice the onions (if used)
 finely, add your condiments, and fry them, in the fat chosen, 
until the potatoes are cooked. Put them to one side to cool 
down, and beat your eggs as for an omelette (at this moment, 
you can add whatever else you wish, bacon, ham etc.. and 
mix it into the beaten eggs).
Now heat up a little fat in a non-stick pan (or an omelette pan, 
if you have one specially-which every cuisine should have!)
and put the desired amount of cooked potato mixture in, 
just to heat a little, then pour over the desired amount of 
egg mixture, swill it around the pan, as for an omelette, 
and when the one side is browned (about 3 minutes) throw it 
(like a pancake) to turn it over. Pick up the bits from the floor 
and brown the 2nd side as well!
Finished!
To serve, slide the “Roestli” onto a plate, and serve (if wished) 
with some apple puree on the side, or in the middle.
For the sweet ones, with yams, you can do exactly the same, 
without the onions, of course, and before service, spread the 
jam or honey or chocolate sauce over the “Roestli” or serve it 
apart.
The real name for these things (which are also used to 
accompany dishes) is actually German – “Kartoffelnpuffern” – 
(you can understand why the Swiss changed the name) and 
this brings me to the title of this article!
MDP Units.
In the 60’s. the British Army in Germany had dealings with 
various “anomalies” dating from the end of the War.
One of these things was called “MDP” Units, (Military Displaced 
Persons) and consisted of Poles, Czechs, Ukrainian etc displaced 
after the war, and the take over of their countries by the Russian 
forces.
Not wishing to stay under USSR rules, or finding themselves 
already in so called “Free” countries, they were now obliged to 
find ID Papers, employment and all the other things of life.
Since most of them were of military origins, and since the 
various Armies (British, American, French etc) needed people 
of their ilk, as translators, drivers, simple workers, guards etc.. 
etc… and since ID Papers, accommodation, employment etc., 
could all be done very quickly, a lot of them ended up in these 
“MDF” Units.
Probably a large percentage were nothing other than “slid-in” 
spies, but they weren’t really employed in anything very 
security orientated, so it didn’t really matter. Another high 
percentage of them were German Military Displaced Persons
mainly those who had a Nazi history behind them, but not 
sufficiently serious to put them up at Nuremberg, or into prison.
German was, in fact, their language used within MDP Units, 
since few of them spoke English at the beginning.
These Units had existed from towards the end of the War 
onwards, and by the time I had anything to do with them, 
in the mid/end 60’s, and again in the 80’s, they were well 
organized, with their own bars, canteens and all the rest, 
within the British Army barracks.
Since I was able to speak German, I was a sort of natural choice 
to have liaisons with them, at first in my capacities as a British 
Soldier, and then (in the 80’s) as a Cook/Chef (civilian) 
working for the British Army.
I often went for a couple of weeks or months to work in their 
canteens, and I always used their bars in preference to the 
warm beer of the British Army NAAFI canteens! 
The prices were the same, if not cheaper, and they had the 
same access to the duty free spirits etc., with the added 
advantage that they could get French and German cigarettes 
duty free as well, and not just English ones.
Here it was, in one of their canteens in Dortmund, W. Germany, 
that I had my first brush with “Kartoffelnpuffern”!
For some weird reason, this had become their favourite dish, 
and although it was on the menu at least twice a week, it was 
never enough, so I put it on as a “special” at every meal. 
Their ability to swallow down at least a dozen of these things at 
each sitting (before going on to the main course) was amazing 
to see, and they could get a bit nasty if they didn’t think I had 
made enough! A bit of knife waving (with the largest knife in 
the kitchen) normally sorted them out – but still!
Now – as a sort of “semi-military” Unit, they all had their ranks, 
right up to Captains and Majors, but after that, it was regular 
British Army Officers who had command!
This led to all sorts of competitions between the MDP Officers 
to try and get something original to please their British 
Commanding Generals etc., and what better than “British” food, 
when the General came with his Staff on a visit?
Generally, this happened every Christmas period, when they 
thought it was good form to supply the highly important 
visitors with a “British Christmas meal” – problem was that 
they didn’t have access to the things needed, like large turkeys, 
Brussels, chipolatas, etc… etc…
Christmas pudding was out as well, and Christmas Cake, so – in 
general, the occasion was a farce!
This was when one of the brighter lads had the idea to call on 
the services of “that Scottish German fellow” – he must have 
access and knowledge to, and about, these mysteries!
Indeed he had, and – for a price – was prepared to share such 
information!
Little did they know that the General and His Command Staff 
had Turkey, Brussels, Stuffing, Pudding etc., coming out of their 
ears at that time of the year, and would much more prefer a 
real “Gulyash” (goulash-a brown stew with lots of paprika), 
cooked by the “Scottish German Fellow” who they thought to 
be an original Hungarian or Czech or Pole!
They stayed polite, however, and thanked their hosts profoundly 
and excessively, for their kind attention to “British Traditions” 
and how did they manage to find a Chef capable of cooking 
British Traditional Stuff within their ranks?
I invariably ended up being called into the ornate Dining Room, 
to receive their good wishes for the season, and their thanks for 
the meal.
I wasn’t polite for too long! After a couple of occasions, 
I suggested, in English, that they would probably prefer a 
Gulyash to another roast turkey, and they may want to give a 
sweet (or savoury) Roestli – Kartoffelnpuffern a try, this being 
the favourite dish of the MDP’s.
After the surprise of hearing English, with a slight Scottish 
accent, they did indeed think that the idea was a good one, 
and could I possibly put it into action the next time?
Of course I could – at a price – and so I did! 
It seemed to me that the British Command Teams came rather 
more often than was necessary for an “official visit” 
from then on!

And somebody asks me if I know how to make “Roestlis”!!

That was Army 
International Cuisine – a true novelty!
When I left, for Berlin, and for other things, I was presented 
with a “golden goulash gourd” (a sort of large spoon, gold plated) 
as thanks! 
I kept it for many years, but all the gold wore off, and 
was probably eaten in my many goulashes!

iwmpop(mrlemarquis) -  Vauvert, France - republished Mai 2011

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