Thanksgiving memories often revolve around food. My mother’s beloved rutabaga comes to mind. My father’s predilection for turkey gizzard, neck, and liver was a Thanksgiving standard. Children of the Great Depression learned to appreciate humble foods.
One of my strongest Thanksgiving food memories is a thing I’ve never had on that day — sheet cake.
As mess officer for the Fighting 802d Engineer Battalion, I was responsible for filling the holiday larder. In the absence of a Wegman’s or Safeway just down the road in Pyongtaek, Korea, the best I could provide our brave men was frozen turkey slices that had thawed at least a couple of times on the boat over from the States. Fortunately, our collective digestive tract was hardened by eating kimchi and drinking water drawn from wells beneath rice fields fertilized with human waste.
The meal included instant mashed potatoes and canned succotash. Dessert was Neapolitan ice cream slices that had definitely thawed a few times. Vanilla/chocolate/strawberry became a mess that resembled bloody diarrhea.
“You never ask your men to do anything that you wouldn’t do”. I dug right in to that meal all the while dreaming of Mom’s rutabaga.
The Army Security Agency occupied a corner of Camp Humphreys, Korea. The “spy guys” did not mix with the common soldiers. You could always identify a “spy guy” because they had really good haircuts. Our battalion barber was a near-sighted Korean who hated Americans.
Their food supplies were flown in from the States and they had their own kitchen. We had powdered eggs. They had Eggs Benedict.
I never discovered what the ASA had for that holiday dinner. They had dessert and drinks at the Officer’s Club afterward. I needed a good stiff drink after that succotash. I sneaked in to their room and saw the remainder of a beautifully iced white sheet cake. I couldn’t resist dipping my finger into the first icing I’d tasted in six months. That might have been the most delicious thing ever to pass my lips.
That’s Thanksgiving to me.
By Ed Dufton