RE: Hard tack, now hunger
- From: "Scott Jeznach" <scottj@...>
Ever heard the old saying about hunger making the best sauce?
As a military vet, I can only say that you would be amazed at what you will
eat when you are truly hungry. <snip>
And don't forget that the diet of the average lower-class person in the 19th
century was very bland and unvaried to begin with, so the military diet
wasn't as much of a shock to a 19th century recruit as it would be to us.
Even things we wouldn't at first think of as "modern" were unknown: no fruit
juices, no milk (it spoiled quickly without refrigeration and in any case
was considered a children's drink), no fresh greens (uncooked food was
considered bad for the digestion), etc., etc.
But the point about hunger is well taken. I still remember an occasion when
I sat down at dusk on a strenuous military exercise (what we in the Canadian
militia endearingly called a "bag drive") and ate a cold IMP package of
turkey chunks and gravy. It was the first food I had had all day and was
the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. The next morning I attempted to
eat the same meal (also cold) and found it repellant. The difference was
that I was no longer famished.
The same goes for the other bodily needs: I learned in the military that if
you are not tired enough to flop down in the wet grass and sleep without
hesitation, you are better off staying up. If you attempt to lie down and
sleep in the wet grass because you have always slept at night and you hate
to break your habits you will be miserable. Coming to that realization was
an important hurdle for me, and it is something some never get a chance to
The more I think about it the more I realize that the ability of people to
put up with incredible hardship away from the comforts of modern
civilization depends on just that kind of thinking. At a reenactment it is
easy to physically recreate the conditions an average soldier lived under,
but unfortunately (or fortunately) it is difficult to recreate the physical
and mental states that went with that existence. It's one thing to bake
authentic hard tack and quite another to put yourself into a situation where
you would relish it. That is one reason why I study military history -
there is something compelling about the idea of a bunch of men with nothing
to lose and no thoughts about the future living from day to day in a way
that we never can in our modern world....
Pte. Andrew Bateman, 1/41st Reg't.
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