During my years of military duty way back in the fifties, I was not generally a very happy camper. I was not a soldier that would be exemplified as 'todays soldier' or have my likeness put on a poster for recruitment purposes. Although it was not altogether a bad experience. I got to travel to places I would not have visited otherwise. I met some people I wish I had kept in contact with. (a regret obviously) But, for this piece what is most important to the rest of my life was the military contribution to my eating habits.
I love to eat, but that is not the way it always was. I was, as I think an awful lot of young people are or at least were, picky or snoopy eaters, with a small range of likes and a large range of do not likes. Well the military cured me of that. I can still remember the incident. I was in basic training and working harder than I ever had in my young life. During breakfast in a huge, huge dining hall, or mess hall as it was called, maybe because it more accurately reflected what was prepared and served to its young heroes in the making, I was going through the serving line with my empty tray outstretched for some familiar breakfast fare. Maybe some eggs, bacon, oatmeal, pancakes, all of which were familiar to me because my mom served me one of the above all my life. But no, not today, because today my life would change. I pulled my outstretched tray back and it was filled with two pieces of toast covered with a mixture of hamburger in a white sauce of some kind. I remember asking my table partner who I thought had a little more worldly experience, jeeze everyone in the building had more worldly experience than I did, what the devil was that lying in a puddle on my tray. He explained in a succinct phrase, it's shit on a shingle. Oh, of course it is I thought. Well it was very early in the morning and we had already been at it for over an hour with a long day ahead of us, and I was starving. I had to eat something and even though the unappetizing offering with the unappetizing name was the only thing in front of me, I balked. I balked, but not for long, survival dictated I eat something and this was it. I started slowly, but found out I really liked this stuff. My mom didn't make it, but perhaps there are other entrees out in the world that I would like also. Thus opened my new world of trying different cuisine's made by someone other than my mom, whom I discovered was not intellectually curious when it came to food preparation. But it was one of those little things that changed my life, at least my appreciation of food, all the different types and origins, prepared by cooks far and wide.
But now after all these years of eating many different foods, and a daily diet prepared by the woman I married who is a very good cook, I still think the two best things to eat are a good old American hamburger, embellished with whatever your mind can imagine, and something chocolate for dessert. But I do thank the American military for opening my mind and stomach to all that is different and sometimes delicious.
Well I still have a prejudice against trying limburger cheese. I just can't get it that close to my nose.