From the Archives - Feeding Tommy Atkins, 1741
The Gentleman’s Magazine was a journal of news, sport, and fashion published in London from 1731 to 1907, one of the longest-lived periodicals on record..
In the July 1841 issue, a British officer proposed “An excellent, wholesome dish . . . for use of the soldiers in summer time.”
Preserving the author’s original format, with a wonderfully run-on sentence, though making some minor corrections to spelling (that old “long s” – ? – can make reading difficult) and capitalization, forthwith is the recipe for what might be termed Mouton al la mush.
Take a breast or half a neck of mutton or like quantity of any fresh meat, chop it small and put it into a pot with ten quarts of water, let it boil almost to pieces, thicken it with two pounds of oatmeal, put into it about four pounds of shred turnips, and two quarts of green peas, a halfpenny-worth of scallions or onions, and a halfpenny-worth of pepper: These, very well boiled, will feed ten men without bread or drink. Parsnips, carrots, or potatoes will do very well where turnips cannot be had, and green beans bruised a little will do instead of peas.
Now to the twenty-first century reader this looks pretty awful. But considering the standard ration of the age, it was probably better than what the troops were getting normally. There’s a surprising willingness to include some veggies, which provide vitamins and minerals otherwise lacking in the standard rations.
Whether it was ever actually tried with the troops is another matter.