They Were The Best Of Times-They Were The Worst Of Times - mess cooking

Purloined From Fred's Place


Forward By Jack - The fate of the lowly non-rated man in the Navy and Coast Guard is to be assigned to Mess Cooking. The term is a misnomer. A mess cook cooks nothing. A mess cook serves the food, peels the potatoes, does the dishes & pots and pans, cleans the mess deck(s) and the galley and generally does the dirty work for the cook. Of late mess cooks have taken up many of the duties of the stewardsmen (TN's) in the wardroom. The best job as a mess cook was to be assigned to the CPO mess. In my day (prior to 1975,) the normal assignment was 30 days. Regulations allowed for 60 days but then you couldn't be reassigned to it for 60 days. Wearing a designator didn't excuse you from the assignment. Only after you made PO3 did you leave mess cooking behind. I remember a fella who got out of the scullery because he was promoted to EN3. That night he went out to celebrate his freedom from pot walloping forever. He got a bit tipsy, the SP's got him, took him to Joy Street and released him to go back to the ship at 0900. Liberty was up at 0745. The Captain took his crow and the poor devil started a new hitch in the scullery that afternoon.

Even through the veil of time I remember mess cooking on the McCulloch and the Evergreen. I don't remember it too fondly. A part of my 26-1/2 year career I never want to repeat.

An anthropologist might call mess cooking a rite of passage. (I felt at the time that I was married to the job)

The entries made by the many Coasties in this posting are true and their is an element of despair that runs through the whole page. Of course the foulness has been softened as this is after all a family site.


What are some of the best/worst times you've had messcooking?

I made the mistake of telling the cook that I had once apprenticed under a European-trained chef. He promptly handed me his keys and went on leave! It was a different Guard then at a laid back small boat station so I ended up doing the planning, prep, cooking and clean-up for 6 weeks. The cook showed up to do his books and to purchase supplies, while I juggled quals, radio watch, etc.

My whole time was pretty bad, because I was a Pollock boy messcooking for a Finnlander, and you know how Pollocks and Finnlanders are. But the worst was when I did a perfect demonstration of projectile vomiting during a storm in Whitefish Bay, near the Fitzgerald's final resting place. After that I never got seasick on that ship again.

My second day mess-cooking we had Taco Tuesday. The girl running the scullery didn't know the rule about filling the garbage disposal too high, so when she engaged the disposal refried beans, taco meat, and peach pie flew all over both of us. Thank God it only got on my left side of my uniform, but the poor girl was covered in what looked like projectile vomit. So that was my best AND worst day because we all got a good giggle out of it, but the stuff got grease stains all over my uniform that wouldn't come out so I couldn't wear it anymore.

Mess cooking in about 20ft seas, everyone should try it sometime. it gets pretty messy.  

About a year ago my old 270 pulled into Cozumel Mexico. We had been underway for about 3 weeks with no port calls and the trash room was as packed as it has ever been. So some genius FS1 decided that the Mexican port would not take our trash with out any order to it ( F***in crazy huh?). So me and two fellow non-rates had been tasked with the fine CG job of sorting the trash in 3 categories. Rotten meat in clear plastic bags, paper in black bags, and plastic in separate bags. After the first day of smelling rotten meat not of this earth and sorting through bathroom waste products and old porn mags the FS1 busts in and tells us, "Hey guys your off the hook...DuHhhHH" It turns out the Mexican port didn't give a darn about our trash, like our FS1 assumed.

Well let me see. Every time that we got underway I had to mess cook. As soon as we would pull into homeport and homeport only, I would finally get rotated out to chip paint and catch all the running rust. I didn't have too much of a problem with only messing cooking while underway, just with the fact that I was ALWAYS in the damn ward room. Nothing like having to toady to the officers for six to eight weeks at a shot. Thought making seaman would change that but no such luck. Too many seaman onboard then so I got to stay in there for a little longer. Have a nice day all.

I cut my finger. That kinda sucked.

I reported to my first boat (CGC SWEETBRIER) in the yards, and ended up messcooking for the first month while in drydock. When we finally got underway to head back to 'Dova, it was my first time at sea. What did they serve for lunch? What else, spaghetti. Lemme tell you, it was about 30 seconds after hitting the Coos Bay bar before I had my head stuck in a trash can, with my insides trying to become my outsides. In between heaves, all I could smell was that greasy tomato sauce, which started the evolution all over again. First time (but not the last!) in this wonderful career that I wished I was dead!

Every day was the worst time!!!

I couldn't have said it better myself...I don't think I EVER had a good time doing that crap.

It all pretty much sucked....but looking back 18 years, can laugh a little now. Our main cook u/w was an SS1, that everyone thought was a total (expletive deleted....) (and he was) He was also gross... like coming in during the morning, after a run or something, not showering after a run, and starting the meal, without washing up.... or another time, his whites were all dirty from changing his flat tire or something. The whole crew hated this guy and if it was obvious he spent a lot of time/effort on something, the whole crew boycotted it!!! started by the non-rates, no less!!!! My personal favorite memory, was a couple of particularly nasty pots or dishes that weren't coming clean, OVERBOARD...... Another favorite memory, is the one mess cook that completely filled the dishwasher with liquid detergent, instead of powder, and there were like two feet of suds all throughout the galley....... I never realized the importance to crew morale, as when this SS1 left, and we got a good, competent SS1... he walked on water.... Everyman on the crew, from the skipper on down paid homage to his meals, which were excellent.
Especially underway on the buoy deck and meals the only thing to look forward to.

He used to say, "the right way is the bright way". I never forgot that... he helped to mold the perfectionist that I am.

He had to have been one of the last "old guard" SS. You've never messcooked until you've messcooked for Smitty.

The worst time: All of it. I believe that percentage wise (time aboard divided by time mess cooking), I have to be pretty far up there. Out of 9 months aboard the Polar Star back in 1981 - 1982 (I went to YN school after that), I messcooked for almost four months - not continuously of course, but you can use your imagination to find out that I didn't spend much time NOT mess cooking. If you weren't striking BM (which I was certainly not) you were not in the "in" crowd, and therefore fodder for mess cooking. I'm sure another factor was that I was a constant irritant through my antics and attitude to the BM's  It was a rotten, icky, horrible, miserable THANKLESS job. BUT, looking back I'm glad I did it. It also gave me a lot of respect for SS's (now FS's). That was reinforced by the great FS crew when I was on the Spencer 88 - 91.

It was on land but it still sucked, 120 people, one Messcook, 45 days straight, no days off, 0530 to 1800, Weekends were light when every one left but the SS1 (back then they were SS's not FS's) had me take soogie powder and a soft bristle tooth brush & scrub, as he put it "where the bulkhead meets the deck," messdeck & galley, while the SS3 was out back washing & waxing his car.

I had the same thing at Cape D. We served the Motor Life Boat school and the station personnel. I'm not sure of the exact number, but it was a pretty big crowd. The things I hated most were how people didn't know how to scrape their plates. They'd toss their dishes into the scullery (sp?) with a half chewed enchilada on their plate.......... Nasty... Or when they would stick their heads through the tiny opening in the scullery and say something stupid.

I was a messcook when the galley opened in San Juan PR. We only had like four messcooks and were working 14 hour days, 12 days on and one day off. The fan that sucked the steam out of the scullery was broken. I lost weight in those two months which was a good thing. After that I decided on OS A school so I could sit down for a while. I love my job, but sometimes I wish I was back. We had great times but the job sucked. I could lose my beer gut also.

Throwing numerous 50 lb boxes of potatoes over the side will doing the midwatch mess cook.
Same as above except tossing pans over the side.
Spilling red bug juice on the ops boss.

My best times, worst times and only times mess cooking were on the Red Cedar. The best time was actually when I had just completed my two weeks mess cooking. I was passing through the mess deck after getting some cokes I saw that the Spaghetti and meatballs the SNFS serving for dinner underway was missing an important ingredient, the spaghetti sauce I asked him about it, and he told me to shut up I didn’t know what I was talking about. Being a lowly SN I just said Aye Aye and walked away giggling to myself. During dinner the Captain came out and said “SNFS what is wrong with this picture?” holding a plate with spaghetti and a few meatballs on it. The SNFS gave a confused look. The CO then flew into a tirade about how the SNFS needed to go back to Petaluma, which left the crew in hysterics. The SNFS eventually got an unsuitability discharge. But he was good for a laugh.

The worst time I was messcooking was when the OPS Boss (a boot Ensign) started to demand that all the wardroom tablecloths needed to be ironed and wrinkle free every meal. Every day I tried my best to get the tablecloth wrinkle free every day he called me into the wardroom to complain about the wrinkles. Finally the EO spoke up and told the young ensign “He can’t polish a turd, if you want the tablecloths wrinkle free stop having them stored in the cabinet under the TV, and get some new ones.”

I was very hung over one morning when mess cooking on the Sundew. I was supposed to make bug juice and grabbed a bag that I thought was bug juice. After about an hour or so, the bug juice machine didn't look right. It turns out that I grabbed a bag of jello. Again after a night of drinking I started out the next day very hung over. I was told to go to the paint locker and grab some white paint to paint out the scullery. Well I did. I started to paint but noticed something wasn't right. It turns out that I grabbed some of that Vinyl Chloride crap they used on buoys. I was promoted to the Wardroom that day and the rest is history.

Spent six months with the Jack-of-the-Dust at a large base. I was delivering produce for noon salads to a new SS3. She had a large stainless bowl under the lettuce slicing when she pushed more than the lettuce into the blade. She cut the tips of three fingers. We quickly went to the hospital. Since I cleaned up the galley, I asked about the salad bowl when I returned. The bowl was gone. It was served, finger tips and all. No one ever complained.

I was getting some yellow sheet cakes ready for the noon meal ( well I thought they were sheet cakes) I put a good coat of chocolate icing on them and took them out to the serving line. It wasn't very long before I was hearing about how good that cornbread was with chocolate iceng on it.

I was really hung over one morning when this other messcook punk made me mad. We had just retrieved several loaves of bread and other stuff from the reefer flats when we decided to square off on the mess deck. After we beat the stuffings out each other we looked around the mess deck and found everything was destroyed. Especially the bread and that lousy bug juice machine. It was hard to explain how he got his broken nose and my busted up hand. Those were the days

That same week and suffering from another epic hangover, another punk messcook and I were gathering breakfast items from the refer flats. We were fed up with each other and decided to square off on the messdeck. After several minutes of beating the stuffings out of each other the incident was broken up. He had a broken nose and facial lacerations and I had bruised knuckles. The worst part was I was offered another 30 days of messcooking that I didn't refuse. The bug juice machine? It had to be replaced.




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