The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Correspondents and experts continually laud our various services, and the newspapers daily proclaim the reckless daring and in tiative of our airmen, the accuracy and weight of our artillery, the dash of our cavalry, the bravery of our infantry, and the perfection of our supply and medical services. But rarely does an enthusiastic and appreciative public read an article expressing praise and appreciation of Our army cooks. Yet who is there that will deny their importance or dispute them their claim to distinction and a just recognition of their meritorious services? Certainly no one who has served in the A.I.F., or any other Force.
Degrees in cooking vary greatly. Cooks range from the grease-besmudged "babbler", who dishes up a monotpnous succession of "teas straight", bad language and an occasional stew, to the natty, smart-looking chef, who is capable of so disguising a tin of Fray Bentos, that only the most exacting of epicures can distinguish it from a fricassied chicken. Between these extremes come cooks of varied degrees of proficiency, cooks who prepare dishes some of which are palatable, some tasty, some sustaining, and some that fill the rubbish bag and provoke the ire of the sanitary fatigue when he finds the stuff there.
Cooks are privileged to growl unceasingly and invariably avail themselves of this privilege. But cooks have a lot to contend with. Their peace of mind is disturbed by unsympathetic quarter-masters, small issues of green wood, ditto of tea and sugar per day—perhaps—and, most annoying of all, mass meetings in the cookhouse.
The wood issue is a continual source of annoyance to the cook. If he chops it himself, it is usually a log that grew in the dark, with a grain as twisted as a Q.M.'s idea of a good issue. If he trusts it to someone else, the axe-handle is sure to go. When the cook and the wood issue meet the air becomes electric, driving some chaps to the shelter of their bivvies, while the "hard-heads" listen in rapt admiration.
A co.k has to endure the sarcastic humor of alleged wits and submit to inquiries such as: 'Was it raining where the stew was made?", "Has the sugar ship sunk?", "Why did you promote only lance-corporal in the bacon?", "Could you spare some tea that hasn't been onioned?"
A "babbler" is suspicious naturally. If his dishes are praised, he's on the lookout for a "grouser catcher", or a "backsheech king". If his digestion-destroying concoctions are candidly discussed, he becomes eloquent about growlers and seeks a sympathetic audience; being a cook, he usually gets a good hearing. Let him be so unwary as to utter the word "backsheech", and he is in danger of being injured in the resultant rush, or at least choked by the dust raised in the stampede. It's only by indulging in profanity that he can convince people that "backsheech" is off.
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Remember those who toil alike in the burning heat of the Jordan Valley and the freezing rains of Judaea; those who breathe an atmosphere of smoke and grease; those who strive to achieve the impossible, and have to submit conlinualy to the indignity of such an epithet as "Greasy"—remember our army cooks!