Saturday, March 4, 2017

Foodie Memories from Navy Life – The “Worst” Food in the Fleet and the “ACR” Dinner


Hilarious Memories of my Delightful Navy Life
A Spoof


One thing I found good about the Navy was that – the Food served in Wardrooms was excellent – both afloat and ashore. 

(Wardroom is Navy Parlance for Officers Mess)

But  there were some exceptions.

Like this frontline warship  on which I was serving many years ago.

This ship was reputed to have the worst food in the fleet – perhaps the worst food in the entire Navy.

That is what everyone else said.

However – I found the food to be quite okay.

In fact – at times – I found the food to be quite tasty.

There was a “suggestion book” in the wardroom  in which everyone gave vent to their anger  by writing all sorts of disparaging complaints about the food.

I was the only officer who wrote positive comments about the food – lavishly praising a dish whenever I liked one – and generously praising and complimenting the cooks and stewards for their efforts.

My favourable comments about the food had many ramifications.

The wardroom stewards would pay particular attention to me  and they would give me special service – including choicest helpings of both non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes (which the cook would send up for me from the pantry) – and they would also make sure I got plenty of dessert  since they knew I had a sweet tooth.

After I had finished my meal  the Chief Steward would place the “suggestion book” in front of me – and he would look on eagerly  as I profusely recorded my generous appreciation with lavish praise for the food and service  in the most prolix and flowery language.

The “suggestion book” would then be rushed to the PMC  the next Senior Officer to the Captain  who on this ship  at that point of time – happened to be the Supply Officer (now called Logistics Officer).

After around 3 months  there was the customary Wardroom Mess Meeting.

Each and every Officer bitterly complained about the standard of food.

“This ship has the worst food in the fleet...” complained all the officers, most vociferously. 

“Yes  if they institute a trophy for “THE WORST FOOD IN THE FLEET” – our ship is sure to win the trophy hands down... someone said.

The Captain looked at the PMC.

In response  the PMC thrust the “suggestion book” in front of the Captain.

And – the PMC pointed to my glowing comments full of praise for the food  which the PMC had highlighted.

With a wry smile on his face  the Captain started going through my appreciative comments of fulsome praise for the food.

The Captain seemed to be enjoying reading all my comments – page by page.

After some time  the Captain looked at me  and  he looked at all the officers.

Then  the Captain said: 

“Well  at least one officer feels that the food in our ship’s wardroom isn’t all that bad. In fact – he has lavish praise for the food served in our wardroom.

The Captain pointed towards me and said: 

“Look at him – he loves the food in this wardroom – see how prosperous, happy and healthy he looks – I would rather believe him  rather than all you thin skinny emaciated guys – yes – if he says the food is good – then it must be good...”

(I was probably the “healthiest” officer on board – nice and chubby – just short of the “10% above the ideal weight” upper limit required to maintain my S1A1 medical category)

Then  the Captain looked at everyone  and – pointing at me  he said: 

“Look at him prospering – you guys learn from him how to enjoy your food. From now on – all you cynical and pessimistic guys better stop complaining... 

The Captain and PMC then gave “sermons” to the assembled officers to stop complaining and give constructive suggestions instead.

With that – the wardroom mess meeting ended – to be followed by the customary PLD.

My wardroom shipmates were furious with me.

“How can you say that this horrible food is good...?” they all said to me in unison.

“I really like the wardroom food – I find it quite tasty...” I said honestly.

“What...? You find this wardroom food tasty...? There seems to be something wrong with you – how can anyone actually like this terrible food...?” all the officers said to me, in disgust.

A few days later – when we were in harbour – I invited my Captain and all my wardroom shipmates to my home for dinner.

After “relishing” the inimitable “delicious” food lovingly prepared by my “Better Half” at my home – no officer ever asked me again why I liked the food in the ship’s wardroom. 

Yes  after experiencing the outstanding culinary skills of my Better Half” – my shipmates understood why I liked the food in the ship’s wardroom which everyone else thought was the “worst food in the fleet”.  


Once – when I was posted to IAT Pune – my Boss – a Commodore – jokingly asked me: “When are you inviting us for Dinner...? You haven’t hosted your ACR Dinner” so far...

All Officers had already held their ACR Dinners” and invited the boss and officers with families. 

The ACR Dinner” was a customary dinner in the ACR Season where your wife could impress the Boss and his wife with her culinary skills and earn you “Brownie Points” for your ACR.

Of course – I am sure you know that ACR means Annual Confidential Report – the “Be-All and End-All” Performance Appraisal Report – that can either boost – or doom – your military career. 

“So – when are you calling us for your ACR Dinner”...?” the Commodore asked me.

“Sir – it is safest for me if I do not give an ACR Dinner”...” I said. 

“Why is that...?” the Commodore asked, curious. 

“Sir  if I do not give an ACR Dinner” – there is a still a remote chance that you may give me a good ACR – but – once you taste my wife’s cooking – you are sure to “screw” my ACR – and  you may even give me an adverse report... I said, matter-of-factly. 

The Commodore burst out laughing. 

We called the Commodre and all Officers with their wives for a dinner  well after my ACR was rendered. 

And – I cooked the main dish – my signature  Chicken Do Piaza  – which was highly appreciated – as also the dessert I had prepared. 

My “Better Half” played safe and made her typical Dal-Rice which could not go wrong.

Before we got married – my “Better Half” did tell me that she did not know how to cook. 

But – I did not realise how honest she was being. 

After almost 35 years of married life – it won’t be proper for me to say that my wife is a “terrible cook.

S– I will be polite – and  I will say that  as far as my wife’s culinary skills are concerned – there is considerable scope for improvement.

The Navy taught me – that – instead of criticising someone/something – it is better to say: 

“There is scope for improvement...” 

You must always “motivate” people – never demoralise them. 

So  even after 35 years of marriage  I am patiently waiting for my wife to improve her cooking skills.



The BYO / BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) restaurants in New Zealand reminded me of our Navy Bachelor Days when we carried our Booze with us in Hip Flasks – especially when we went out in the evenings in Mumbai (then called Bombay).

Of course  since there was no BYOB concept in India those days  there was no corkage either  and – we had to swig booze straight "down-the-hatch from the Hip-Flask – or – we had to add a slug of booze to the glass of water served with food  as appropriate.

After I got married  my hip flask mysteriously vanished  and  instead of BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze)  I had to resort to BYOF (Bring Your Own Food).

Yes – in view of the outstanding culinary skills of my Better Half  whenever I invited friends over for dinner  I would tell them: 

Please BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)  I have plenty of Booze in the house  so there is no need to BYOB  but please BYOF – since – you know how well my wife cooks...

Now  after retirement  there is no Booze in my house  so  if I invite you for dinner  you will have to do both  BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) – and –  BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) - BYOB and BYOF... 

So – Dear Reader:

You are cordially invited for dinner – but – remember – BYOB and BYOF...

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1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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