It was a dark and stormy night. Throughout the ship, the oncoming watch was being awakened. I had been awake for sometime, since 0430 hrs that morning, as I had been industriously performing my duties as the Operations Division's contribution to the messcooking staff of the messdeck of the USS COLLETT, DD 730. It was the summer of 1962, and I had just recently arrived onboard.
It was the custom for each division to supply an enlisted man to perform the duties of messcook for a period of three months. The person chosen was usually the last one of that division to arrive aboard. My predecessor to that position had only served a couple of weeks in that capacity when, after an interlude on liberty ensconced in the arms and charms of a beauteous and winsome Island Maid, he became inflicted with multiple painful and medically onerous infections. Insofar as his having to finger his most private member as one would a piccolo to provide passage to nature's preferred orifice to accomplish micturition, the ship's corpsman deemed him medically exempt from any duties which would involve his presence in the vicinity of either potable or victual consumables. I therefore fell heir to his former status as our division messcook.
The messcook is generally an all-around cook's helper, flunky and gofer. The duties involved breaking out the day's rations from the various compartments and hideyholes scattered about the ship. These could be located most anywhere on the ship. The freezer and reefer were three decks below the Galley, the cooks' domain and the location to which the messcook is to bring the goods he has retrieved. At sea and in heavy weather, this is quite a chore. This morning had involved bringing several gross of fresh eggs which were in cases of cardboard which had been stored in the reefer. Each case contained 144 eggs so this involved three trips up three ladders as the ship pitched, yawed and rolled. I found it advisable to stand still as the ship pitched up and to climb the ladder with the case of eggs as the ship reached the apex of the upward movement and began its decent thus allowing gravity and inertia to assist me. We also were to have steak later in the day so I had to bring up a couple of hundred wt. cartons of 4 in 1 beef from the freezer. Not only were the frozen beef cartons awkward and heavy but due to the layers of frost and ice, they were very slippery. As the ship would roll I found it advisable to walk as the ship approached the vertical and to lean against the bulkhead on one side or the other as the declination or inclination increased.
The messcook also is charged with the initial preparation of the vegetables such as peeling the potatoes. We consumed many potatoes. The messcook made the salads. The messcook cleaned the messdecks. The messcook set up the steam table, the place where the messcook brought the trays of prepared rations from the Galley one deck above to be served by the messcook to his fellow sailors. The messcook prepared the potables. These would have been, coffee, tea, reconstituted milk, bug juice [a particularly onerous concoction of granular citric acid, potassium and multitudinous chemical additives which mixed with large quantities of di-hydrogen monoxide was consumed in great quantities by the unsuspecting crew members as well as being particularly useful in cleaning the oxidation from the copper tubing and lining of the steam table]. The messcook was responsible for the care, maintenance, and operation of the scullery, a veritable Hell Hole of steam, hot water, scalding hot food trays and refuse.
All of the foregoing activities were repeated three times a day as an all-hands evolution by all the assigned messcooks. In addition to the normal activities, each evening, one of the messcooks would have the duty of serving Mid-Rats or Midnight-Rations for the watch-standers who were either starting the mid-watch or ending the first-watch. The common fare for this meal was the ubiquitous Navy Soup. It was not unusual to sometimes have freshly baked bread and some leftover meat loaf or maybe sliced bologna with which to make horsecock sandwiches. In any case it was the responsibility of the messcook on duty to bring the soup and whatever else was to be served that evening down to the steam line and set up for service. The messcook was responsible for making fresh coffee, and then serving the meal. This evening, the same Radarman 1st who had been continuously derisive of my status as messcook, came in and as I ladled his soup, started complaining about the quantity, quality and mixture of the soup. I explained to him that I had no control over the ingredients as the composition of the soup was determined by the leftover food from the earlier meals of the day. After I had finished serving the meal, I went into the messdecks and Fox Easy, his nickname, called out, "Hey Messcook, bring me some salt," so I did. A few moments later he called out again, "Hey Messcook, bring me some pepper," so I did. A few minutes later, I heard him call again, "Hey messcook, get me some coffee," as I brought his coffee to him, he was in the process of bringing a spoonful of soup to his mouth and I said, "I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll make a deal with you, if you'll stop kidding me about being a messcook, I'll stop pissin' in the soup." His spoon dropped back into the soup bowl, he got up, went on watch and never again called me Messcook.