In February 1985, I was a brand spanking, newly minted, Second Lieutenant and it was almost the end of a long week in the field during my Military Police Officers’ Basic Course. After five or six freezing nights, sleeping barely at all in the woods of Fort McClellan in that Alabama winter, those eggs were a thing of beauty and oh so warm. Barely tepid, yet the steam rising as I breathed into the crystal air, tepid resulted in an enveloping river of warmth with each bite spooned down the gullet. They were the best eggs I’d ever eaten.
For six weeks during early 1996 I spent half of every twenty-four hours in a large canvas tent, staked out in the middle of a former Russian Air Base in Tazar, Hungary as a junior desk officer. My boss assigned to the three star Commanding General's staff overseeing the support efforts for Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina immediately after the Dayton peace accords were signed. Meals were taken in an old Russian mess hall, served four times a day to cover all personnel including those who worked the midnight shift. In general, large stainless steel trays of food remained on the serving line. The hot food usually cold and the cold food usually warm, until either the choices had been completely served away or were so congealed, solidified or clearly no longer edible that they were tossed in the garbage. The rampant camp-wide bouts of dysentery’s runny diarrhea were seemingly unrelated. I was skeptical. I spent those six weeks subsisting on canned tuna fish, crackers, bread, milk and cold cereal. Occasional fresh vegetables green or red in color were devoured swiftly. I experimented with mixtures of Tabasco, mayonnaise, peanut butter, mustard, or ketchup resulting in a variety of salad dressings. I inflicted these upon whoever shared my table in the large dining hall.
“Here, try this.” I’d pass a bowl over to the soldier across the table from me.
“What is it?”
“Fresh made salad dressing. What do you think?” The hapless soldier would look at me like I was crazy. Perhaps, wondering if a junior officer’s request amounted to an order. Some said no. Others were happy for something, anything different. Over time, this occasionally resulted in requests to recreate a masterpiece - unfortunately there was no written record of any recipe. I’d make it up, again.