Period Food

What the soldiers ate on campaign

Manuel D'Infanterie

Part One: Practical Instruction

Lesson One

Preparation of food: 2 Soup
Water is placed in a pot (marrnite) in the proportion of one litre (one Parisian pint) for each 250g (half a pound) of meat: it is put to boil on a rapid fire to remove the scum as quickly as possible; the heat is reduced after the pot has been brought to the boil, add 8g (2 gros) of salt per litre of water. Seasonal vegetable are added, one or two hours before the meat is removed. When the soup has boiled for five or six hours, and the stock is reduced to one fifth, the bread is dipped into the soup, leaving the pot on the fire until the last gamelle (squad mess tin has been filled) so that the soup does not lose its heat.

If the order to break camp comes before the soup has been made, the soldier, so that he does not lose the meat, removes it, and so that it does not go off, shall half cook it (over a direct fIre?), if there is not the time (to part cook it), to smoke it, that is to expose it to a thick smoke.

If in a besieged town, or a long journey, it may be required to extract (marrow) from bones then the procedure is as follows :

Using the bones which have been cooked with the "evening" meat, or better still bones which have not been cooked in the pot, the bones are ground in a mortar to produce a paste, the paste is then place in a type of tin casserole, pierced with holes like a skimmer, and which is called a "diaphrame" the casserole is placed into a pot containing plenty of water, and the paste is cooked as for making the soup with meat. Half a kilogramme (one pound) of ground bones, cooked in 4 litres (about 4 pints) of water, that is the amount of water which would be used for 2 kg (4 pounds) of meat, produces, after simmering for about six hours, 3.2 litres (three and a half pints) of stock, and gives one half pound of "solid" nourishment provided by the bones. The stock will be covered in a layer of fat 60g of which is used to cook the vegetables: the weight of bones is reduced by half, and the stock obtained is a quantity equal to that obtained from 4 pounds of meat.


3.Cooking Vegetables.

The choice of water in which the vegetables are to be cooked is most important. It should, if at all possible, be running water, clear, odourless, and should be able to dissolve soap (that is soft water), from a river or rain water is preferable to spring or pond water, well water or water which lies on chalky ground should be avoided. When on campaign, and dried vegetables are issued, which may be badly cooked and not swell-up and remain hard, this may be attributed to the quality of the water;if it is "seleniteuse" (dissolved chalk sulphates) then it will not be possible to cook well in this sort of water. (Basically if you add salt to dried pulses, peas and beans before they are cooked the skins stay tough and require a greater cooking time)