War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


I think of them often. especially on days I wake at 4 a.m. then roll over to go back to sleep again because it’s at 0400 hrs that they rise and get a camp started.

and I wonder if cooks go to sleep at night in their BAT and calculate the numbers of eggs they’ve cracked in their careers like others count sheep. one crack, two crack, three crack… or, 50,000 crack, 49,999 crack, 49,998 crack… or is it 100,000,000 crack because I saw a young cook with the most amazing maple leaf tattoos up and down both his arms and across his chest (he showed me lucky girl!) crack at least a couple hundred one morning.

and I think of vinny-bombs. pranks with vinegar and hot grills. pranks to make each other laugh and tear-up.

I think of the kitchen Sgt. in Shilo showing me her baby girl’s photo and her telling me she’d be missing her 1st birthday but it was okay because her sister was looking after her baby girl for her. and her sister would be there for her 2nd birthday too because the cook would then be in A’stan.

I think of the kitchen WO rolling up his sleeves and peeling potatoes. making moose nuts, coffee in cheese cloth and tied into melon-sized balls then dropped into the big coffee pots to boil boil boil..

I think of a cook nearing retirement and looking forward to seeing the flowers she plants every year actually flower. and another who was getting posted to Cold Lake where the Air Force reign and where legend has it, the best food in the CF is served (oh that’s what “they” told me anyway).

I think of the cooks often. wish I’d spent even more time with them. the grub they served was excellent. seriously excellent. as fresh as possible.

I remember at FOB Wilson when we were cut off for 10 days (or was it two weeks the FOB was cut off) and the cooks sitting and calculating how they could stretch food and yet get max. carbs and max. flavour into the boys’ stomachs with min. water (the CSM meanwhile storming the camp, putting the fear of the water-Gods into everyone… NO MORE THAN 2 BOTTLES PER DAYCONSERVE because his job was to prepare everyone for total shitshow over in A’stan… and oh how they loved and hated him).

and I have a pic of the two head cooks (WO and Sgt?) sitting inside a sea can with pencil and paper and calculator. ah, with 5.7 litres of water x carrots and…

I remember the first time I stood in the line at a flying kitchen. plate handed back to me, I handed a plate back to the one behind me and so on. oh, this is how it’s done is it?

I remember the first meal I had at Shilo. driving in from Winnipeg in a rental through the autumn prairie wondering what the hell I’d signed up for, what the hell was I doing leaving my family to go join a bunch of soldiers training for war. and the road into CFB Shilo lined with yellow ribbons for kilometres because 2VP had just returned home (I was later to visit them with the COR in Whistler). then being met by Lt. W, my minder, in a blue van (the blue fleet!) filled with piss tests (random urine samples). I remember being driven to my digs in officers’ quarters (which I protested and which was later rectified by plunking me into Admin. Coy’s BAT – thanks Darren and all my fellow room mates!), finally out into the field where a warm dinner had been held for me. the first of many. tin-foiled plates I was to enjoy and surprisingly delicious (but only a fool would feed an army poorly).

diesel engines. flood lights. LAVs. at Shilo I watched a rifle company (Delta) being born, the rifle coy I’d tourist with in A’stan. at Shilo I watched movies with Admin. at night, drank army coffee, learned to climb a LAV, Stab Runs, Carl G range… big boom, yes, I made big thunder (and got many jacked up for it I might add). at Shilo I met them. him. all of them.

at Shilo I stood and served spuds for the first time. it was nerve wracking but also really great. I got a chance to “spoil” the young ones with homesick eyes, and to check out the good looking ones (wild rice M would shout, and all the female cooks would look at some handsome one coming down the line!). and the last time I served them was in A’stan. a Warrant, a Sgt. and I rifled through freezers to feed hungry hungry men and women preparing for their 1st big Op.

I remember wondering where in that gorgeous land the cooks I’d met actually were. I wanted so badly to visit them. but it was not to be, other forces were at work. so I had to be content to brush BBQ sauce on chicken, slap spuds onto the plates for boys with dirty faces (from being outside the wire). look at their eyes when you do this a Padre once said, you’ll be able to read them.

I read them. I gave them just a tiny taste of home. then helped clean up.

went to bed.

some of them never made it home.

4 Comments (Closed)


The food was amazing on the FOBs. They always got the best of everything and any time the brits or american’s visited, they felt envy for our flying kitchens and the cooks manning them. I always found something about canadian cooks that differed from our nato allies (except maybe for the french) and that was pride. They took a great deal of pride in what they prepared and hitting the FOB’s only reenforced that belief. Now eating at KAF was a whole different experience…

Aug 16 2011 · 10:08


Chris! are you still there? if you’re in KAF you have to try out “Cat in a Box” down by the US barracks. it’s the best mess in KAF.
I have a friend who is the chief of logistics/provisioning for NATO and he tells me the French drink wine with their meals in theatre! lucky you to get to eat in flying kitchens out there. we only had a BBQ, a snack tent, and rations. still, nothing to complain about.

Aug 16 2011 · 10:25


Did not like eating in the mess’ in KAF, but in a pinch I’d usual do the hike over to the Cambridge (UK) mess as they had decent curry :) Still, best food was in the FOB. My photographer gained weight in the FOB’s which is not unusual. Wine: I heard the same about the French but never observed it.

Aug 16 2011 · 13:47


check out the mess I told you about. they have a good stir fry and a slight restaurant feel – decorated in Asian themes. btw, Cat In The Box is NOT MY name for the mess, it’s just what it’s known as! good to hear from you

Aug 16 2011 · 14:52

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled cooks. It was posted here on August 15, 2011.


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