Alexandra's Notebook

The Bacon Butty

One of the best things about the military is that whether you worked days or shift work, you could guarantee that at any time of the day or night, you could get a meal. There was no excuse for missing a meal as far as I was concerned, and even though I might be brain dead when coming off a night shift, I made a point of staggering to the mess hall and chowing down on at least an egg and bacon butty before bed. Though I’m not sure either my waistline or cholesterol levels appreciated my hearty appetite.

I especially loved night shift and yes, you guessed it—and this is where I learnt how to cook—I always volunteered to collect our overnight rations and be a part of the cook team, which was usually a two person job. Night shifts could be long and boring and while on some nights you could wrangle a few hours sleep in between, the seemingly endless hours of night were filled with cards, debates, endless cups of coffee and supper.

During my time in Germany and, depending on the two officers you got stuck with on night shift, supper was between 10:30 and 11 pm. Never earlier and never later. What supplies you picked up and ate depended on the duo who were tasked to do the supply run, and cook. If the consensus was for a breakfast style meal—anything from steak and eggs, to a bacon butter—someone would always be out on the airfield doing a maintenance check of the runway lights from a land rover so they could forage for mushrooms. And boy did we get some fantastic mushrooms on base. Some as big as saucers.

I took what I learnt from my mother and aided by a particular Corporal who fancied himself a chef in the making, we would try to cook up a different dish each night shift. This sometimes involved pilfering herbs and spices from the mess kitchens and experimenting.

I have to say, in all that time I think we only ever made one BIG mistake when, one night, we over did it with the curry powder trying to make our version of a quick curry. We nearly put the entire night shift in the medical centre. After that we calmed our recipes down just a smidgen, and reigned in the ambition.

Regardless, I learnt a lot about throwing together quick, easy, delicious meals in a tiny cramped kitchen space using only one hob, mini oven, and a toaster. By the time I was posted to Scotland, I was a dab hand and using a frying pan and wok.

Maybe I should have opened my own cafe when I left the military. I guess I’ll never know.