What the Food Is Like On A Navy Ship
By Vince Stead
I was in the navy for 8 years, and I’ve had food from navy destroyers, aircraft carriers, submarine tenders, and shore duty galleys.
When a ship is in port, it always had plenty of fresh food on board. Right before a ship pulls out to sea, it is replenished with new food and drink.
If you going to be out to sea for a while, you will start to lose some of the things on board you take for granted. Fresh milk is usually one of the first things to go. They substitute it with powdered milk, and it does not even come close to real milk.
Don’t get me wrong, the food on the ship is actually pretty good, and you get plenty of it!
When you are in port, you have access to the freshest foods the navy has, just like your hometown grocery store pretty much.
When you wake up in the morning, you go down to the galley, and get in the chow line. There might be 10 guys in line by the time you get down to eat, and breakfast is usually served most of the morning, because not everyone can eat at the same time, and it would be over crowded then. On smaller ships, like destroyers and frigates, you usually would have 4 meals a day. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Mid Rats, a small meal that make around midnight for people that are still hungry, and want something to eat.
On the destroyer I was stationed on, we would also regularly have cook outs right on the fantail. We always had a 55 gallon drum that was cut in half, and someone from the Supply Department would be frying cheeseburgers, and that was always nice, even out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we would be having a cook out.
For breakfast, you can usually order your eggs to order, there will be a cook or 2, that take requests for how you want your eggs made, they had a rule not over 5 eggs, I usually only had 2 most of the time, and I would tell them I want a ham & cheese omelet with 2 eggs, and then after I get my eggs, I move down the chow line, and get whatever else I want to go with that, bacon, sausage, just like a small buffet really.
Usually on Fridays, if we were in port, we would have steak and lobster tails on Fridays. I never even really had a lobster tail until I joined the navy. My dad never liked sea food when I was a kid, so we never had it in our house.
Lunch and dinner were usually like a buffet also, just about anything they had, was a line of good food, and you take what you want, and you can always get a new tray and go back in line again, if you are that hungry.
The aircraft carrier I was on, was actually way too big of a ship for me, and I was so glad I only had to stay on it for 2 weeks. There food was good also, and it had 2 galleys, so that one was always open, if the other closed for cleaning or whatever reason.
When you have roughly 5,000 people on board, you better have a place for them to eat all the time, just like a casino, if the ship had slot machines on it, it would be pretty close to the same atmosphere of a buffet.
When I was in transit somewhere out in the Indian Ocean, I had to go to Saudi Arabia to get on a flight to Italy, and a helicopter flew me and about 5 other enlisted guys out to this USNS ship, and we were supposed to just ride the ship for 2 days, until we got off the ship. They had an enlisted 1st class yeoman that had his own stateroom, which on a regular navy ship, just the officers get.
This was a USNS ship, which meant it had civilian workers, and the navy personnel was support for them. When we ate in their dinning room each day, a waiter would come to our table, and he would take your order. I thought to myself, you have to be kidding me, these guys are wearing civilian clothes, and a waiter is taking their order, and I can’t even believe this is real. They give you a choice of 2 selections, sort of like on an airplane, and they bring you ice cream as dessert, and I thought that was unreal.
Most of the civilians on that boat were not cool like the navy guys, probably because they thought the navy worked for them, which on that ship, they sure did, and I could think of several ways to save the navy a boat load of money!
Submarines get some of the best food in the fleet. They guys are under water sometimes for so long, and could you imagine if they did not have good food?
They have a drink they call bug juice, which is really Kool-aid or a fruit punch drink. You better get used to drinking bug juice, if you like something to drink with your meal, after the fresh milk runs out.
Here is one of the craziest things I’ve witnessed on the ship, and every ship does it! It is such a waste of good food, but I guess you can see how it does protect the states from pests and bugs, but does it really?
When ever you are going out to sea far, you usually stop by Hawaii to get new stores, as they call it, which means you are stocking up the ship with fresh food and meat and stuff like that.
As you travel the world, and then are returning, before you stop by Hawaii, you have to throw all the food that could have any chance of having any type of bug from another country in it, so we have a working party, of maybe 20 guys, and the job is to make a line from the food refrigerators, which a ship has several decks of them, all with elevators to make it all together, and we unload all the food, 50 pound bags of brand new onions, lots and lots of them, big boxes of lettuce, lots of boxes of it.
We throw just about everything this is left in the coolers overboard into the ocean, and all the guys just can’t believe we are throwing all this good food overboard, and we bet a lot of sharks are following the ship, and can you imagine how much food an aircraft carrier would throw over board. An aircraft carrier has a place on the back of the ship for throwing trash into the ocean, but only when you are out 50 miles or more to sea, so it does not wash up on the shore, and so many things are thrown in the ocean, besides food. You can sit and smoke a cigarette, and just watch all the people that have trash to throw in the ocean, pretty bizarre in a way, but you can’t have it pile up on the ship.
I would have to say overall, the food in the navy is good, maybe even great, I would of never thought it would be as nice and plentiful as it was, and some days after being out of the navy, I swear their spaghetti is still the best I ever had in my life!
Vince Stead has 13 books up for sale so far, one called “Navy Fun”. He was in the navy for 8 years as a Yeoman, and he visited 16 countries, and went around the world in 1986. He was on a destroyer, a submarine tender, a short stint on an aircraft carrier, and 4 years shore duty at a VAW squadron.
He has worked for himself for the last 20 years, and lives in San Diego.
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