USS Midway and the History of Navy Food Service

One of the pre-FNCE activities was a tour of the USS Midway and a presentation on food service for the Navy over the years.  Being both a dietitian and a military spouse, I found this topic extremely interesting.  Naturally I signed up for this excursion.  I would have loved to see the USS Midway anyway, but I liked that this came with a presentation, and of course, some continuing education credits too.  

The USS Midway is an aircraft carrier and has been a museum in San Diego for about 8 years.  Being a Navy town, this is a great addition to the many things to see and do here in San Diego.
To start, we were served a box lunch to enjoy while listening to the Speakers.  I had a veggie sandwich.  It was good, but it would have been better if the roll did not get so soggy.
Speaking of food service on the boat...
First we had a nice presentation about the history of food service in the Navy, aboard ships, by a man who was stationed on this very ship and then came to work at the museum.  He is the author of Beef Stew for 2500 and provided us with some great insight into food service over the years.  

One thing I found very interesting was that alcohol was provided to sailors as part of their daily rations, almost consistently throughout history, until more recent times.  It was thought to give them courage while at sea, and just before battle they were usually given a little more.

Another interesting piece of information was that in the early days they were arranged in groups for cooking and the meals were prepared within those small groups.  The food was placed in like a boiler room and prepared that way.  Of course that was for the enlisted men, as the officers had better cooked foods.

In those same small groups, one person was responsible for taking all the money and getting all the food on shore.  Of course there was the chance that person would just leave with the money (AWOL) and everyone else on the ship would remain hungry.

Food quality was poor initially and some of those original recipes would probably not interest any of us now, but over time things did improve, slowly, and today they have more options on each of the ships.

I wish I could remember all of the information that we were given that day.  In addition to the book author, a former USS Midway head of food service talked to us about the process of 1 chef preparing all the food for all the men.  Again, this was for enlisted.  There were more people preparing food for the officers.  Consistently throughout history they had better food choices and quantity as well.

After the discussion on food service we were given a private tour of the ship.  We started off walking through the kitchen area.  It did not look too different from your standard hospital kitchen.  Lots of industrial food service equipment.
This was how the sailors had to fold their uniforms and store them.
Just a display of the men.
More on the clothing storage.
This is a display in the hospital area.
These are the tiny bunks the men have to sleep in.  The enlisted men had 3 to a bunk.
You can see how the small space is utilized to fit all those men in there.  There is also not a lot of storage space for their belongings.  The bottom of the bed lifts up and there is storage inside each of the beds.
Since this is an air craft carrier there is a ton of planes on display here.
After the tour and wandering around, and yes, shopping in the gift store, I stepped out the side of the boat to take in the San Diego scenery.
So gorgeous here!  What a great place to have a conference!

This was also a great pre-FNCE excursion to sign up for and well worth the time.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever been to the USS Midway?  Ever toured a Navy ship?  


Roz @ weightingfor50 said...

Hi Melinda. WOW....what a wonderful place. Thank you so much for sharing the experience with us!!! All the best for the week ahead.

Lori said...

I find food and food service history of institutions and organizations so interesting! Sounds like a neat tour!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

SO COOL!!! What an interesting post Melinda! Thanks for sharing all of the details and pictures, as I've never toured a Navy ship (and my grandpa was in the Navy). I think alcohol before a battle is a great idea (Strangely enough) because it DOES give you courage and I will tell you right now it would help me with any battle, if I ever had to be in one!!

Special K said...

Loved this post as my brother is on a sub right now. He says how DIFFERENT it is from normal life...and when you say
"until recently" do you know when they stopped serving liquor?

Emily said...

I'm pretty sure I've been on the midway during one of my trips to San Diego, too! :)

I'm such a history nerd, it sounds like something I would have really enjoyed. And talk about close living quarters!

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