Eat This While You Read That: William Joseph Roberts

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It’s been a while, and I have missed this. I’m not going to commit to it on a weekly programme again, sadly, those days of time and fun have passed into the night with the advent of career and kids needing my time on the weekends. However, I’m pleased and proud to present a simple, tasty meal from a highly unexpected source, and a darn good read that fits the meal well. 

Widowmakers is set in WWII, which always makes me a happy reader, and it’s fantasy, but not so fantastic you won’t get into the details of airplanes and bored soldiers doing what they have done since time immemorial. The First Reader enjoyed this book as well, and wanted to know if there are more (not yet?). If you want gremlins, tanks, planes, and a rogue group of rough and ready men sent to do the impossible, pick up the book! Also, it’s very reasonably priced and in KU.

When I talked to Roberts (I can’t call him William. It’s far too formal for him. Roberts is more natural to me in this setting for some reason) about his idea for a meal to go with the book, he initially suggested I not cook at all. Just buy a chili mac MRE! 

Heh. Well, I did that. And then I found the USMC mess recipe for chili mac. As I commented to my First Reader, and to Roberts, I have eaten MREs, and even C-rats, although I never served. But years in the CAP and being a military brat open you up to some, ah, odd experiences. C-rat fruitcake in a tin was pretty darn good, as I recall through the mists of time. Crackers in MREs? Could be used as e-tools in emergency. But I digress. I was dubious about the edibility of the chili mac. That, and for some reason I got it into my head that there would be cheese involved. 

This is a muchly-scaled down recipe, and abnormally for me, I stayed fairly close to the recipe I’d found, trying to capture that something remembered by the GI in my house, at least. His assessment? “About right,” added salt. “Yep, that’s it.”

The end result – It’s full of flavor, but not heat. You’d have to add hot sauce (which I am out of) for that.
All the spices! I really liked how much flavor went into this.
Sauce simmering – don’t let it come to a full boil, you don’t need to and it could burn.
Good sauce-to-noodle ratio.

I was asking the First Reader about plating. He looked at me funny. “Well, in the mess you get these divided trays…” Not what I meant. Besides, I haven’t got those and am not inclined to acquire them for a recipe, even though, yes, I have bought stuff for presentation in the past! Now, what did you get with it? I wanted to serve it with some grated cheese, a little sour cream, maybe salsa… “You got it plain. No GI ever got all that stuff.”

His and hers. Mine is all frou-frou.

So I photographed his bowl, and mine. Then he put all that stuff on his and ate it, because it’s good that way. This made a very nice, filling meal and it’s definitely comfort food. The Johnny Chapman sorghum hard cider paired very nicely with it, having a tart bite to cut through the spice and richness of the meal.  I wound up not opening the MRE. It’s stashed in the pantry. I’m not sure what to do with it! The Little Man will probably claim it for camping, actually. They work well for trail food, it’s what they were designed for, after all. 

You can find all the other recipes and books from ETWYRT here, and there are 70 of them, now!


7 responses to “Eat This While You Read That: William Joseph Roberts”

  1. Cedar, anytime we hit the field, two light items I could afford to add to my loadout were a small bottle of Tabasco and a bunch or green onions.They went a long way to making C-rats, and later MREs, edible. Tasty, even.

    1. I seem to recall MREs of about the 1990 era having tiny bottles of Tabasco in them. I know this because my roommate was once bet $20 to drink all of them the squadron could collect at once…

      1. Could very well be. I got out in ’86. Silly me. I figured that the mighty Russian Bear was kaput, and the Warsaw Pact was no longer the widowmaker,so I thought we weren’t gonna fight any more big battles, so I got out. I was dating the woman who’d become my wife and mom of my daughter, and she HATED the military, so I got out.

  2. Scott Tackett Avatar
    Scott Tackett

    Can’t go wrong with chili mac. 🙂

    1. I have learned that!

  3. John in Philly Avatar
    John in Philly

    The mess trays were either stainless steel or bakelite plastic.
    My wife and I joke about serving things “Navy style.”
    That’s when you use a large serving spoon to dig into something with the consistency of chili mac or mashed potatoes, and then invert the spoon over the plate (or tray) and deliver the food onto the plate enough velocity to make an audible splat.

    And a good reminder that it’s time to kick off a batch of hard cider so that we are ready for summer.

  4. John in Philly Avatar
    John in Philly

    Forgot to add a thank you for the book tip, and it’s now on my Kindle.