Thursday, May 26, 2011

U.S. Army Creamed Beef on Toast

There is something a little perverse about Memorial Day.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against parades or cook-outs or furniture sales, but it all seems misplaced on a day when we are supposed to honor our fallen dead.  I think with all the flag waving and burger flipping we sometimes forget that this is day about the incalculable loss of war.  That is, of course, except for mothers. 

My son is almost 12, and the thought that in less time than when he was in kindergarten he could be dressed in camouflage, armed, and headed for combat makes my heart stop.  He has almost climbed out of childhood, and is poised on the dangerous precipice of manhood. 
His over-sized feet are still waiting for the rest of his body to catch up, but it won't be long.  I can't imagine my terror if those same sweet feet that used to kick the inside of my belly should one day walk right into a recruiter's office. 

I wonder about my grandmother who watched her own skinny boy leave home at 17 for the promise of a uniform.  And were she still alive I know that she would be thankful to salute her son on Veteran's Day and not on Memorial Day.  But this weekend, I am mindful of the mothers who are not so fortunate.  So this Memorial Day, when you honor those who did not make it home, save some space in your hearts for the unspeakable suffering of their mothers. 

I won't begrudge you your hamburgers and hot dogs, but the right food for Memorial Day is the U.S. Army's Creamed Beef on Toast.  It's a dish my father discovered as a young recruit, and it is dull and gray and drab, like this holiday should be.  But it is also comfort food at its best--warm and thick and hearty.  It's the kind of meal that staves off the hunger and homesickness of a young soldier, recognizing, of course, that it won't do a damn thing for his mother.

U.S. Army Creamed Beef on Toast
Adapted from the Mess Hall Cook, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, 1950
1.  Brown one pound of lean ground beef in a large skillet. 

2.  Add 2 cups of skim milk.

3.  Stir 4 heaping Tbsp of flour into 2 cups of cold water.  Stir vigorously until all the lumps are removed.

4.  Slowly pour into the beef/milk mixture, stirring constantly.

5.  Add two beef bouillon cubes.

6.  Add garlic salt, pepper, and a dash or two of Worcester sauce to taste.

7.  Simmer for 30 minutes until thick and creamy.  Serve over toast.


  1. Poignant and lovely. Thank you.

  2. Thought provoking post. You know, I have never eaten creamed beef on toast. Now I may be compelled to try it! :)

  3. I'm with Mary ... never tried creamed beef on toast, but it sounds a lot more appealing after reading your post. Thanks!