February 5, 1968
Our allotment of food on Monday was usually bulk ground beef, and on this day we received a full issue. Sumo wanted to make meatloaf which required hand forming free standing loaves (we had no bake pans). Each loaf would serve 8 portions, and we could only bake 20 in each oven. Sumo and I managed to make 50 loaves, which left limited space to make gravy . . . we needed another oven and burner unit to cook for this many Marines. As an alternative, I suggested making a glaze and remembered Jenny’s recipe for “Piquant Sauce” made of catsup, brown sugar, nutmeg and dry mustard. The meal was a big hit, but more importantly, we successfully collaborated our creativity and cooking skills.
After the meal Britt asked to speak with me privately. He’d spent some time talking with Sumo, and they spoke about the previous Mess Sergeant (medevac’d for a bleeding ulcer). Sumo confirmed, the former Mess Sergeant was back working in the battalion mess hall. Britt confidentially revealed to me that the Sergeant was an alcoholic and had traded canned goods with the villagers south of us for bottles of rice wine and local moonshine.
This news irritated me . . . the Sergeant’s ulcer issue was the reason I was transferred to Hill 65; and in this context I felt it was unfair that he was, in effect, rewarded for his poor choices. I promised Britt I would keep the secret to myself and never spoke about it again.
Later that night Leggs showed up at our hooch and announced, “Man cannot live on bread alone . . . He must have peanut butter.” Leggs had missed dinner in lieu of finishing a project, and this was his way of asking for a PB&J sandwich.
While relieving his hunger pangs, we sat in the dark mess hall talking while he slurped down a carton of milk and the sandwich. I asked him how difficult would it be to make a BBQ Pitt out of a 55-gallon drum. He thought it would be easy enough to make, but “Why?”
I told him of my idea to let the troops cook their own steaks on Sundays after the club closed. Leggs was always one step ahead of me and asked, “Where are you going to get charcoal?” I didn’t know the answer but did get a commitment from him. Leggs would build a BBQ Pitt if I could acquire the fuel.
Next Edition: Trip to Da Nang