Food Preparation for the Mess


Food purchased by the Navy is high quality food. To maintain this high quality from the time it reaches the Navy stores until it is served to the mess, the food must have careful and intelligent handling in preparation and service.

Storage: Attention must be given to proper storage of the food when it is first received. The turnover of stored food should be carefully supervised so that the stores are moved in the same order as received. This has direct bearing on the condition of the food when issued for preparation.

Perishable foods should be put immediately under refrigeration and kept refrigerated until time for preparation.

Study the Menu and Recipes: The menu and recipes for the week should be carefully studied daily to determine the length of time necessary for preparation and cooking.

Preparation Period: The food should be prepared as near to the actual time for cooking as possible to prevent the loss of valuable vitamins and minerals.

The period of time elapsing between preparation and service to the mess should be as short as possible.

Have the Food Ready Just on Time: The actual cooking period should be completed just a few minutes prior to the serving period, making allowances for time necessary to carve meats or give the finishing touches to the cooked product. Food that stands after cooking loses much of its fine flavor and nutritive value.

Standing at room temperature, several hours at a time, also exposes the food to spoilage bacteria. Therefore, it is important to serve cooked food hot and immediately after it has been cooked. Approximate cooking time is given in the recipes.

Overcooked Food Becomes Wasted Food: To retain full flavor, best texture, and highest nutritive value, food should never be overcooked. Cook it only to the proper degree of doneness.

Serve Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold: Hot foods allowed to cool and cold foods served warm are unappetizing and often become wasted food.

Watch Appearance and Consistency: Attention must be given 'to the appearance of the meal after it is prepared and to the manner of service of the food. This is especially helpful to morale. Make the food look attractive. Combine foods that are contrasting in texture and color. Avoid having foods all the same color and of similar texture in one meal.

Parsley for garnish, when available, or a dash of paprika for color, adds eye appeal and stimulates interest in the food.

Taste Each Dish Before Serving: Extra seasoning may be necessary before serving.

Place Food on Serving Tray Carefully: Food should be carefully portioned before service, then placed on the serving tray with care as the men pass by the service counter.

Keep Cooking Equipment Clean: It is important that cooking equipment be kept scrupulously clean. Be sure that thermostats and thermometers are carefully checked at periodic intervals.


Cook Vegetables in Small Quantities: To conserve the natural color, texture, flavor, and nutritive value of fresh vegetables, they must be cooked in relatively small quantities. As soon as they have cooked for the required length of time, they should be removed from the kettle and served immediately.

The cooking of vegetables should be a continuous process until everyone has been served.

Canned Vegetables: Since canned vegetables have been precooked they need only be heated to boiling temperature before serving. Excessive heating of canned foods at high temperatures will not only reduce the nutritive value but will also cause a decrease of palatability and appearance. It is preferable, therefore, to prepare the vegetables in small batches, rather than heat enough for the whole mess at one time and hold at a high temperature throughout the feeding period.

Prepare Just Enough Food to Be Consumed at Each Meal: The amount of food necessary for any given mess will vary in accordance with the care used in its preparation, the other foods on the menu, the likes and dislikes of the men to be fed, the care with which the food is served and the number of men present at each meal.

Absenteeism has a direct bearing on the amount of food necessary for the mess. Food should be prepared for the number of men who will be present at mess, not for the number assigned to the mess.

For these and other reasons, the amount of issue on a particular item may actually be less than the amount called for in the recipe.

Also, a large mess serving 1000 men will use less food than 10 messes each serving 100 men. To conserve food and avoid great amounts of leftovers, the following reductions are recommended:

For messes of 500 to 1000 men, reduce the amounts of ingredients in the recipe 5 per cent.

For messes of 1000 men or more, reduce the amounts of ingredients in the recipe 10 per cent.

The recipe for Knickerbocker Bean Soup, based on the requirements for 100 portions, is given as an example showing the quantities required for a mess of 1,000 men.

This calculation is made by multiplying each ingredient by 10 to obtain the amount required for 1000 portions on the 100 portion basis.

Since messes of 1000 or more men can effect savings of approximately 10 per cent, the quantity of ingredients required will be the amount calculated, less 10 per cent. For example, 7 pounds of beans, the quantity required in the Knickerbocker Bean Soup recipe for 100 portions, multiplied by 10 amounts to 70 pounds. This amount, 70 pounds, less 10 per cent, or 7 pounds of beans, is equal to 63 pounds, the quantity of beans required for a mess serving 1000 men.

Note how this recipe should appear when the amount of issue for 1000 men is inserted in the blank column reserved for this purpose.



Yield: Approx. 6 gallons. Portion: 1 cup (approx. 8 ounces)
  Pounds Ounces   Pounds Ounces  
Beans, Navy, dried 7 ---- 1 gallon 63 ---- 9 gallons
Water, cold ---- ---- To cover ---- ---- To cover
Water, boiling ---- ---- 4 gallons ---- ---- 36 gallons
Salt pork, cubed ---- 12 1 1/2 cups 6 12 3 1/2 quarts
Carrots, chopped ---- 4 3/4 cup 2 4 6 3/4 cups
Onions, chopped ---- 12 2 1/2 cups 6 12 5 1/2 quarts
Meat stock (page 216) ---- ---- 2 3/4 gallons ---- ---- 24 1/4 gallons
Potatoes, diced 5 8 3 1/2 quarts 49 8 8 gallons
Bacon fat or other fat ---- 4 1/2 cup 2 4 2 1/4 quarts
Tomatoes 6 6 1 No. 10 can (3 1/4 quarts) 57 6 9 No. 10 cans (7 1/3 gallons)
Salt ---- 2 1/4 cup 1 2 2 1/4 cups
Pepper ---- 1/4 3/4 tablespoon ---- 2 1/4 6 3/4 tablespoons


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Transcribed and formatted by Rick Pitz for the HyperWar Foundation