For months, I avoided soul food night specials at the DFAC and chose, instead, a bowl of cereal or pop tarts. The macaroni and cheese was served in cut blocks as the pasta had melted into itself. The "fry" on the fried chicken seemed much greater in mass than the "chicken" of fried chicken. The vegetables? Overcooked, and molten, indistigunshed.
As of late, however, Sunday night has become a culinary delight. I never seem to remember it ahead of time, but when I walk down to the DFAC, and discover that it's SOUL FOOD NIGHT, well, I am a happy man. Tonight, I eschewed the ribs and macaroni and cheese delicacies, and, instead, partook in the gumbo - which, as a charming mix of shrimp and left over chicken curry adorned with plump pieces of floating hotdogs, may not rate as 'Nawlins finest, but makes a nice dish, all the better mixed up with cornbread, and washed down with sweet tea. The larger portion on my plate was collard greens, without the pork parts, and a heaping mound of blackeyed peas. I used to consider this the penance for the sins of the "gumbo mash" described above, but my vegetarian wife will be happy to know that I now enjoy these as much. (The better to wish in the next New Year, I suppose).
Honestly, the food here is tremendous. We are blessed to have hot food, and people who cook it for us. There are no MREs, and the dreaded constipation that accompanies it. There are many selections, and frankly, some of the food is tasty. I am always amazed at how they are able to offer these gargantuan trays of fresh fruits and vegetables to thousands of soldiers in the middle of a dust bowl; especially, considering that the food is brought from all parts of the world, all of which are more than 1000 kilometers away. The dishes all have a little taste of the sub-continent, and I am happy to leave this behind, but that is more to escape routine and a welcome of choice, not for lack of quality.
Really, this is a far cry from anything in deployed settings in the past wars, and you do find yourself a bit guilt-ridden with complaining about a shortage of Diet Coke or Honeynut Cheerios, having Pepsi Light and Total, to suffice. If anything, though, you recall the cornicopia available to most Americans, at any time of the day, and truly appreciate that remarkable convenience. Gulitily, I am looking forward to this in a major way. In the meantime, however, this white boy is digging his curry-chicken gumbo mash with a large side of greens. - vinegar and hot sauce at the ready.