In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’d like to salute all the Irish south Boston members of the 26th Yankee Division. Wayne’s Irish grandmother, Annie Frances McCullough Wayne, could bend over and pluck a four leaf clover from any patch she encountered. Perhaps it was from her that Wayne’s luck was inherited.
Crossing Europe during WWII without regular rations, Wayne learned to scrounge for food. He checked root cellars and fields for root vegetables. When found, potatoes could be cooked up for a decent meal by his standards. Although I wonder how he ate them without black pepper. Wayne always said you tell how close to Boston people lived by how much pepper they used.
On page 283 of Patton’s Lucky Scout in Wayne’s “cookbook” appendix are his root vegetable recipes.
2 pints water
This dish can be cooked if you are staying overnight in an occupied farmhouse with a kitchen or over a campfire. Peel and dice potatoes and place them in a pan of boiling water. Continue to boil until soft to a mess-kit fork.
Pour off the water, retaining the liquid in helmet. Mash potatoes with the butt of your trench knife. Mix back in some of the retained water, continually stirring with a mess-kit spoon. Use extra retained water to wash mess kit, tools, and pan as necessary.
In some of the farmhouses we slept in, the farmers had stored potatoes in the basement or cold cellar. Our division was formerly part of the Massachusetts National Guard. Many in our platoon were from South Boston and of Irish heritage, nicknamed “Southies.” They loved mashed potatoes. Whenever the opportunity arose, they made and savored mashed potatoes.
Cut rutabaga into 1-inch cubes. Skewer with a 1/4-inch diameter freshly cut green stick. Place about two inches above campfire coals and rotate frequently. When a trench knife easily pierces the surface, they are soft enough to eat.
Rutabaga patches were quite common over much of the territory we captured. They were often left in the ground, once grown, as a practical way to store them. We would dig out only as many as we needed. We often had to save any water we had for drinking, so boiling a rutabaga for eating was not always possible.