Life in the culinary adventure of the United States Department of Defense (DoD), the most powerful Department of Defense in the world, managed dining facilities can be repetitive and, when you get right down to it, roast pork loin or “beef clod” that has been frozen, defrosted, roasted, sliced, refrozen, defrosted again and then heated for several hours in a “warming kitchen,” can make your mother-in-law’s soggy-with-grease fried chicken downright appetizing in comparison.
This is the point where, if we had a sound track, we would play “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” by Lyn Anderson. But, we don’t, so we’ll move forward with the recipe.
Fortunately, they usually give advance warning as to what they are going to serve, and since their quality control provides incomparable consistency, you frequently know ahead of time what they are serving, and based on experience, whether it is worth exposing your health to or not.
So into the DFAC (short for “Dining Facility”) you wander for breakfast because breakfast is a meal that is not easily despoiled: prepackaged cereal (Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Granola, Kellogg’s Mini Wheats, etc); fruit generally in the same form that God created it in and frequently in the original packaging; little packets of peanut butter, honey, strawberry or grape jelly; Nabisco Premium Crackers; Quaker Oats instant Oatmeal with sundry flavors; irradiated milk and juices in 8 oz. containers.
You check the day’s menu and see that for dinner they are serving the aforementioned desiccated meat dishes, with mashed potatoes, and coagulated with mushrooms “brown” gravy sauce. You remember that Army Times article from long ago, during the Dark Ages of the Rumsfeld Gifted Amateur Dynasty, NOT to be confused with the television show Dynasty, that plainly stated that most of these “warming kitchen” recipes were based on traditional Army recipes and then your mind jumps to dishwater flavored mashed potatoes speckled with dirt and chaff blown up by the rotors of the UH-1 Huey helicopter waiting to take the thermite cans that didn’t’ keep the food warm and kitchen crew back to Camp Eagle, or (fill in your favorite Southeast Asian paradise here), where they could have another 24 hours to brew a noxious concoction that the Army (or Marine Corps) euphemistically referred to as a “tasty and nutritious” meal.
A tear comes to your eye as you remember nostalgically the oath you swore when you returned to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and McDonald’s Hamburger stands: Never Again.
Do not feel bad, we all make promises or swear oaths in our younger years that we cannot possibly live up to.
So, at noon, you traipse over to the Italian PX aboard the local NATO base and purchase a few culinary articles: pork loin and pork side meat from Italy, and frozen peas (from Italy — see photo). You still need to visit the DFAC for either lunch or dinner or maybe both. For meal number two, the next evening, you will need sliced bell peppers and sliced onions. It is easiest to get them from the salad bar in the DFAC, but the DFAC is consistently inconsistent in this aspect of its salad bar offering, so it is wise to get them a day or so ahead of time.
It might be nice to provide a photo of the Italian PX but that could create a security problem. Most knowledgeable folks understand that the Taliban and other “Enemies of the Afghanistan Government” and NATO and the US of A, have difficulty hitting the planet when they launch their rockets. On the other hand, they do occasionally manage to aim at and hit Kabul — it is a big target — or actual military targets, and when they do, they injure or kill people. No need to give them any ideas as to more precise targeting.
So then, that night, high in the rarified alpine air of the Hindu Kush, for Meal #1, you place two cups (the measuring cup that came with the 220V rice cooker you ordered from Amazon.com) of the Basmati Rice (see photo) that your buddy from India, home of Basmati Rice, brought from home, in the rice cooker with a ½ teaspoon of salt, with three of said cups of bottled water, and one said cup of frozen peas, and a couple tablespoons of genuine Italian olive oil (purchased earlier in the year from the Italian PX), stir and cook.
Then, while the rice and peas cook, slice the pork loin, sprinkle with Morton Brand Coarse Kosher Salt and black pepper (National brand from Pakistan is the best), and grill in your 220V electric skillet that you purchased from Amazon.com.
Arrange decorously on a paper plate, pour a little chutney from South Africa (purchased at the Italian PX-see photo), sprinkle a little pulverized red pepper (hot as the fires of Hades from India — see photo) and serve.
For Meal #2, which will be served on evening 2, the next evening, chop up the pork side meat or cut it thoroughly into small pieces and fry it in the aforementioned electric skillet. This meat has no seasoning — it is not salt pork and it is not bacon — so you might want to add in a little salt and black pepper. There is no need to add oil; you will get plenty of drippings from the meat. After the meat has cooked down and is brown, remove from the skillet and toss in your diced bell peppers and onions (the stuff you got from the DFAC). Saute until it begins to brown and scallop around the edges and then toss in the remaining rice with peas.
Stir occasionally until the rice is hot and serve on a paper plate. (See photo.) Sprinkle with the aforementioned pulverized red pepper from India, and, if so inclined, pour on a little South African Chutney.