February 7, 1968
The new burner unit smoked a lot at first, and we realized it needed to be broken in. We let it run for a full cycle and refilled it in the morning. This extra burner allowed us to use our three ovens and the flat grill at the same time.
Sumo suggested we change the repetitive “cold cut sandwiches” to a more diverse lunch. He thought we could do a school cafeteria style menu and allow the Marines more hot choices. I trusted his judgment and said, “Make it happen.”
Mama-San and I had a long discussion about charcoal. She didn’t understand using it for cooking and said, “You use wood.” I explained to her the qualities of charcoal: “TEE-TEE” (very small) flames and “BOO-COO” (many or large) heat and smoke. It made no sense to her. Finally I said, “Vietnamese use wood, America use charcoal.” She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders, “Why don’t you say so first!” and she agreed to bring me a sample.
Sumo put out a lunch of thin sliced grilled (bacon shaped) Spam, mac and cheese, Asian coleslaw and baked apples. The salad was an unusual and popular accompaniment to the meal.
With Britt leaving tomorrow, Sumo and I would be challenged to cook three hot meals a day for 400 Marines. It would also make trips to Da Nang impossible, and we would be completely dependent on the daily food allotment from the 3/7 mess hall.
My evening routine began with brewing a hot beverage, (usually my Grandmother’s herbal tea), and then I would set up the folding chair in the “loge section” facing Arizona territory. The Grunts in the field referred to us as Pogues, (Marines assigned to rear areas), and we thought the same of Marines in Da Nang. The ones out in Arizona were at the end of the pipeline, and many would be taken out by medevac. Sumo was creeped out by my watching the war and thought it was a form of perversion . . . maybe it was.
Next Edition: Lump Charcoal