May 24 • 29M

EP 41: Brothers in Spoons: Odd Intersections of Food, Military, and War

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Food lovers, Kim Baker and Leigh Olson, invite you on a storytelling journey exploring food memories, family recipes, food traditions, cuisines, cookery, and food history to discover how food connects, defines, and inspires us.
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In today’s As We Eat episode, Leigh and Kim explore how the realms of food and military intersect, both in times of war and in times of peace. From ration cards on the homefront to ceremonial cauldrons wielded by the Janissary Corps in the Ottoman Empire, the power of food affects how we grow, prepare, eat, and organize our military.

An eager school boy gets his first experience in using War Ration Book Two. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The Influences of Conflict on Food and Vice Versa

A “Kitchen Table” discussion held by members of the Oxford Food Symposium inspired our discussion today on how food influences military operations (and vice versa!) with a hard look at food rationing on the home-front in World War II and the story of an elite army corps that fashioned its ranks, uniform, and even their regimental symbol upon the kitchen.

Janissary Corps - elite soldiers of the Ottoman Empire whose regiments rallied around a bronze kazan (ceremonial cauldron) in a reflection of the value that food plays in a soldier’s life

Leigh takes us through some of her own family history as she examines the ration card that her mother’s family used in World War II, and together Leigh and Kim talk about family cooking traditions, such as the ever-present “grease jar” that persisted in our home long past those days of conflict.

The ever-preset bacon fat jar which still graces many a kitchen today. A vestige of the propaganda of WWII.

Kim shares the history of the Janissary Corps -  infamous army of the 14th - 18th Century Ottoman Empire whose identity is fashioned after the hierarchy of the kitchen, from uniforms to ranks to ceremonial rations from the Sultan’s kitchen. This example is offered in contrast to Chef August Escoffier’s 19th Century “Brigade de Cuisine” hierarchy developed from Escoffier’s own experience as Chef de Cuisine of the Rhine Army still commonly deployed in haute cuisine kitchens.

A Janissary in his uniform. Very often spoons were placed in the brim of the headpiece which signified of the Brotherhood of the Spoon.

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