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I learned an amazing amount of cool military culinary things while working on my new book - The Meals of War - Feeding the Great to the Grunts in World War Two.

Piggly Wriggly cooking demo in North Carolina. Photo via http://docsouth.unc.edu

An amazing thing about the United States during World War Two is that some pretty common everyday things helped play a role in the Allied Victory. We've all heard about the conversion of plants making everything, from car to toasters and more, into facilities pushing thousands of tanks and planes off the production line.

The same is true for bullets, bombs, tents, pants, boots, boats, ships, aircraft carriers and candy.

Yep, I slid candy in to see if you were paying attention. What many people don't realize that the same effort was put forth in the Allied Countries in the area of food production that was done in the area of weapons. Before the war the United States was slowly progressing from a rural farming and food production nation to a regional one. The same thing was taking place in transportation.

(More info about the book - The Meals of War - Click here)

Commercial food production in the U.S. leaped forward with amazing speed. Farmers and producers were sending food to production and canning facilities in an ever increasing manner. And the quality increased as well.

The great thing was that the canning facilities and packers were moving forward as well. The food chain for the consumer and the troops was becoming increasingly safer than ever before. And, rations were tasting better as well.

Sometimes things tasted better... and the taste of military rations did improve over the course of the war. It helped that an amazing amount of cooks and baker were trained, and I mean trained, and put into the field to provide the best meals possible during the war.

So, how does Piggly Wiggly, a grocery store chain, come into play as a factor in winning the war? It all comes down to budget. During WWI American military planners realized that the chow U.S. troops ate was, for a lack of a better word, S@#T. An effort was put forth to improve rations. Rations and cooking for meals, and rations for emergencies such as food bars, canned items and even candy. Then WWI ended and everyone forgot, politicians cut budgets and ration developers were forced to adapt.

Factor in Piggly Wiggly. The grocery store chain Piggly Wriggly was started in 1916 by Clarence Saunders. It was the first grocery store chain to fully use the concept of self service. Safe packaging, brands, canned and prepackaged foods, sales, price tags, savings and more. It was consumer friendly. The ration development guys loved the idea and they utilized their local store.

Dr. Ancel Keys, developer of the K ration, and his coworkers used this kind of thinking when they would make impromptu trips to the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store. They made the trips not for daily shopping but to buy assorted items in order to test out a new idea for a ration. This was easier than waiting for supplies via normal military channels. The budget was reduced on some projects to only $300. So, finding something on sale in a prepacked form at the neighborhood Piggly Wriggly saved time and money.

Thank goodness for Piggly Wriggly.

And WWII recipes such as this one.

Army French Toast - 1942    
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Kent Whitaker


Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
From The Army Cook Training Manual 10-405 - April 24, 1942
  • 30 pounds bread, dry
  • 5 cups milk, evaporated
  • 7 pints water
  • 36 eggs
  • 1 pound flour
  • 2 ounces salt
  1. Slice the bread' 1/2 inch thick, (be careful not to cut bread too thick).
  2. Mix milk, water, eggs, salt, and flour into a batter.
  3. Dip slices in the batter and fi-y in deep fat, or on a griddle.
  4. Serve hot with butter or sirup, or both.

Please note that the word syrup is spelled “sirup” as in the original publication. And that the title of the recipe is really French Toast. But when printed, in TM 10-405, this recipe was placed in the toast section. So French Toast became “Toast, french.” The same happened with the “Toast, milk” recipe.


(Books by Kent Whitaker - Food, recipes, history, military cooking and racing. Talk about real man cooking!)