Tanks, airplanes and submarines are normally the stuff of World War II books. Now there is one about food. Kent Whitaker’s new book Bullets and Bread features soldiers at war and civilians on the home front. Whitaker, an outdoor food expert, starts by taking us indoors to show how the nation was transformed, from a culture of cities drawing from surrounding farms, to a nation with a vast food industry large enough to feed a military that grew “overnight” from one million to twelve million strong and the many millions more of people at home who had to make drastic rationed adjustments.
Bullets and Bread, like World War II, covers four years of victory gardens, rations on the home front, field rations in Normandy and the Pacific, cooks and bakers schools in Chicago, foodstuffs on boats, battleships and battlefields, and subdued dining halls in Washington. It was a pulling together of everyone in the United States in a concerted effort to win the war, an effort fueled by food. General George Patton who knew about war and food said, “The Army is a team, it lives and sleeps together and fights as one:the soldier is the army, and his well being was predicated on his receiving better food than the enemy.” And they did get the better food, often because those at home did without.
The author captures that remarkable team effort and brings voices from the foxholes and battleships of the past, to the present. Recollections of meals of war by several who served bring a fascinating and often humorous perspective to the book that only those who served could render.
Kent Whitaker is the author of three cookbooks specializing in Tennessee hometown cooking and is a resident of East Ridge, Tennessee.