Sunday, April 30, 2006


I received this email from J P Maher the other day. He writes about SOS, or creamed beef. SOS is the dish that most servicemen either loved or hated. Few straddled the fence on this one.
My brothers, brothers-in-law and I logged a total of nearly forty years in the military. My hitch of 3 years, 9 months and 6 days was in the Cold War, the others in WWII and Korean War era. I'm a translator, culture historian and etymologist. We know whereof we speak.

SOS ("stuff" on a shingle) was NOT Creamed CHIPPED Beef, but Creamed GROUND Beef. Quite gloppy. Some troops loved it. I tried it once and swore off. This is not to say that some troopers learned it another way, but here's the authentic scoop.

Creamed CHIPPED Beef was one of my favorite dishes, whether in the mess Hall or my mother's kitchen.

It was the greyish ground beef recipe that we called "'stuff' on a shingle/SOS."

J.P. Maher, Ph D, E-5RA
(Regular Army)
Professor Emeritus
Thanks for the information, J.P. From my recollection as a 29-year veteran of Navy and Seabee galleys -- both active service and reserve duty -- SOS had a generic definition. Any of the dishes, creamed ground beef, creamed chipped beef and minced beef for instance, were collectively called SOS by sailors.

My favorite? Creamed ground beef. I still eat it's country kin: sausage gravy with biscuits when I get a chance. Creamed chipped beef was too salty, even after rinsing the salt away. Minced beef is just plain horrible any way you fix it!

We served creamed ground beef each morning during my last large field exercise with NMCB-17 in 1994 at Fort Hunter Liggett, California.

Official 1969 Armed Forces recipe for Creamed Ground Beef

1969 Armed Forces Recipe Service Card no. L-30
Yield: 100 portions
Portion: 1 cup

24 pounds ground beef
2 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon black pepper
6 tablespoons salt
4 ounces beef soup and gravy base
3-1/2 gallons warm milk
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Brown beef in its own fat in steam-jacketed kettle or roasting pan. Drain excess fat. Add flour, pepper, salt, and soup and gravy base to beef. Mix thoroughly and cook about 5 minutes until flour is absorbed. Add warm milk to beef mixture. Add Worcestershire sauce; heat to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cook until thickened.

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