U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda R. Gray The life of a U.S. Navy submariner is not easy. These sailors live for months in a steel tube cruising through freezing cold water, surrounded by explosives, flammable materials, and even nuclear weapons. In peacetime they run the risk of terrible accidents. In wartime they risk being hounded to destruction by enemy ships and helicopters.
But they eat famously well. If you don’t believe me, then check out this out-of-print book on feeding submarine crews.
The 2004 book Submarine Cuisine was apparently commissioned by the Submarine Research Center, U.S. Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Washington. Detailing life on submarines dating back to World War II, it features interesting notes about the work of a cook aboard a sub; how food is loaded, stored, and prepared; and the kinds of dishes submarines crews could look forward to.
The book features stories from submarines reaching all the way back to the days when ships were named after fish such as the USS Hardhead , USS Bluegill , and USS Blenny . Contributions were also made to the book from sailors aboard modern submarines, including the ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama .
Modern American submarines, the book explains, feed crews three meals a day for the length of the submarine patrol, which could last weeks or even months without resupply. Omnipresent food distributor Sysco provided the food to Pacific Fleet submarines, while it’s King’s Bay for East Coast submarines. On fast attack subs, the food is lowered into the submarine at port by hand, one box of groceries at a time. On ballistic missile submarines, food is lowered through the escape trunk opening by crane in aluminum modules measuring six by six by five feet.
The book also has recipes for sauces, popular breakfast foods such as creamed eggs (which, admittedly doesn’t sound all that great), corned beef and cabbage, ginger pot roast (now we’re getting somewhere) and Maryland-style fried chicken. Naturally, navy bean soup is on the recipe list. The recipe list wraps up with desserts including cherry pie, rice pudding, and baked apples.
Submarine Cuisine spotlights the cook’s role on board the submarine, one of the more service-oriented jobs on a U.S. Navy submarine. Submarine cooks are constantly under pressure to cook and clean, keep to their schedule, and maintain a monthly food budget. Keeping a tidy eating area is important. During non-meal time hours, the eating area is used by the crew for training.
The Navy’s submarine force is known as the Silent Service, not only because submarines are meant to run quietly but because submariners rarely give up details of life on the boat. While not exactly top secret information, Submarine Cuisine is an porthole into the culinary life of a American submariners.