Your challenge this Thursday April 5th is to create a post about a person or people we have met on our journey.
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When I got to Paris in 1969, we had a cook named Ben. Only about 5’3” and might have weighed 140, he was Algerian with a swarthy complexion, short, black, slicked-back hair, his nickname was Snake. I understood that it had something to do with his expertise with the ladies. But, boy could that guy cook.
Every Marine house had some local workers to take care of the more mundane tasks. In Sofia, we had a cook and a maid. In Paris we had only the cook and he was responsible for cooking and keeping the kitchen clean. That became a problem because we had Marines working all kinds of different shifts. We had four or six Marines getting off at 2000, another six getting off at 2400, some at 0400 -- well, all around the clock somebody was getting off duty, getting ready to go on duty, or getting back from partying and wanting something to eat.
Ben was hired to cook three meals a day and keep the kitchen clean. Too often, he would come in around 0500 and find a mess. The guys who got off at 2000, 2200, 2400, and 0400 would have been in there making sandwiches, cooking something -- and everyone left a mess. Ben finally got fed up and quit.
Ah, the Marine charged with the kitchen had a brilliant idea. One of the Marines, Skip, was a trained Marine Corps cook so, instead of paying hard dollars for a cook, why not just use our own resources. He approached the OIC who agreed and Skip was relieved from most of his watch-standing duties and assigned as our cook.
It really wasn’t a bad idea. When you consider he had all of Les Halles upon which to draw for fresh food, he did a really good job. The next problem? Skip liked to drink. One morning I was the Sergeant of the Guard and I went around to make sure my watch is up and alive. Around 0700 a few of us wandered into the kitchen to get breakfast.
Walking in, we picked up a plate or bowl, then helped ourselves to whatever food was on the stove. Dan Hammond was ahead of me in line and Skip had fixed SOS (S**t On a Shingle). Supposed to be creamed chipped beef on toast, the Marine Corps usually just used ground beef and that’s what Skip had done that morning.
There was a five-gallon pot on the stove with the SOS simmering. Skip was slumped down in the corner of the kitchen: he was breathing, so we pretty much ignored him. Well, all the beef always sinks to the bottom of the pot so Dan grabbed a big ladle and started stirring it. I grabbed a couple plates, put two slices of toast on each, and handed one to Dan.
“Uh, guys?” Skip had finally moved! “Uh, I think I got sick.”
Dan and I looked around the kitchen and, not seeing any puke anywhere, Dan said, “Yeah, so?”
About the time Skip said, “I just can’t remember where I got sick,” Dan scooped up a beer bottle from the bottom of the pot. Dan and I looked at each other, both thinking, yeah, well, we know where you got sick. Neither of us had the nerve to stir that pot anymore and we didn’t let any of the other Marines try eating it.
Ben was back the following day with a bunch of new rules. The main one was that Ben would put out some rations for off-duty guards and NOBODY was allowed in the kitchen from that day forth. (Except for party nights when we took girls... uh, forget I said that.)