by Lorraine Cordeau
“Compared to the C-rations the army served us in 1949, this is a feast!” says Kenneth Shaw, a 4-year veteran cryptographer. “Outstanding, more than I expected,” adds Marie Pezzlo, a Traveling Kitchens member. “They even made me a special meal; the shrimp were perfectly cooked,” comments Becky Noreen, a retired coast guard officer. And SEC-TV 12 host Mark Whalen concludes: “We won the lottery!”
These improvised food critics were part of a group of ten chosen at random to experience a typical meal that is served on board a Virginia-class attack submarine. Called Dining in the Deep, this third lecture-with-lunch event is part of Connecticut’s Submarine Century celebrations held at the Naval Submarine Base’s Cross Hall Galley in Groton. Our table was elegantly set with a white tablecloth and napkins folded origami style which made us feel very special. Thanks to supply officer Lt. Cmdr. Chris Shutt, we learned that thousands of pounds of meat, vegetables, flour, sugar and coffee last between 90 to 120 days to feed the fleet. Because of the limited space on board, everything is baked from scratch and food cans are stored evenly all over the submarine’s floor. Once the fresh fruits and vegetables have been consumed, the refrigerators are turned into freezers. Up to 540 meals a day are served to the crews of 175. They also enjoy treats during the holidays, birthdays and halfway nights.
During our visit, Chef Newkirk served us an exquisite Chinese meal comprising of flavorful egg drop soup, General Tao chicken, beef & broccoli, rice, mixed vegetables and homemade cherry pie.
We visited the full-size replica of a submarine galley where the culinary teams are trained. What a
challenge it must be to cook three course meals, during storms, in such a tight area; fortunately, the submarines find stability underneath 400 feet. They have the ability to make their own clean water and air. “Our nutritionists’ mission is to develop healthy and tasty meals throughout the six month deployments,” explains Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Whitescarver. “They review feedback from the crews every seven years, and emphasize green ecology. Vegetarian and religious preferences are respected.” When asked if any food is prohibited, he replies: “No. But a color code was developed to help our sailors make balanced choices: green for unlimited, yellow for moderation (starch) and red for occasional. When we are in foreign countries (e.g. Italy, Japan, etc.), our food supplies are strictly provided by prime vendors.”
Cheers to a tasteful event that might be extended beyond the Sub Century celebrations due to its huge success!