Food—on and off-base

I was a growing teenager when I lived in Germany, so I needed food, and lots of it! I still have some fond memories of my time in Germany involving food. Where to begin? How about the base snack bar. Cheap, basic food maybe, but it sure tasted good.

I remember my first day in Bad Kissingen after we had driven all the way from Hanau. It was now mid-afternoon and my dad, mom, brother and I went to the Daley Barracks snack bar for a quick meal. I still recall sitting at the table by the window, eating my meal and looking out at the green wooded hills which surrounded the town.

Through the open windows came a soft, warm breeze. I was seven years old and it was back in August 1972, but I still recall that event after all these years.

We would sometimes go to the snack bar, with our moms permission of course, during our lunch breaks when we were in elementary school. We would play a couple of games on the pinball machine next to the door and then get our lunch at the counter.

We loved being able to order our own choices. After getting our hamburgers we would then have to put them into the big metal microwave cooker and wait for that little ‘ping’, telling us that they were cooked, taking care not to burn our fingers when we took out the grease paper wrapped ‘burgers.

The snack bar usually wasn’t too busy because most of the soldiers ate at the mess hall. We sometimes filled our cups with coke or root beer, then have a few sips before filling up again and paying.

Later, by time I was in my teens, we would often go out into the local countryside and hike for miles. Before we left we would always go to the snack bar to buy a can of juice and a ‘burger to take with us. I also recall that on a few occasions we didn’t heat them up first but took them with us cold and cooked them over a camp fire.

They were never as well cooked as in the microwave oven, but usually still cold inside and burnt on the outside. Still, we enjoyed them nevertheless because WE cooked them! We were in the Boy scouts, so sometimes we made up things to take with us that we saw in our Scout handbook, like ‘birdseed’ which was a bag filled with candy and dried nuts.

Usually we had already eaten everything we took before we even left the housing area, it meant long hours in ‘the field’ with no food! Sometimes we managed to get hold of army ration packs and took them with us to cook over an open camp fire. Some of the food was really disgusting but we valued the biscuits and peanut butter, also the matches.

It is still a nice memory of how we would be sitting in the woods somewhere a few miles from home in the drizzle of a Bavarian autumn, cooking a couple of tins over a fire, the smoke drifting into the surrounding mist. We than scooped out the food out of the tins  with a plastic spoon. I still have my little ration can opener somewhere. It somehow always tasted so much better than a slap up meal in a restaurant.

I also remember how we would go to the PX on warm summer days to buy a cold popsicle or ice cream. I always loved the lime flavored popsicles, or the ice cream sandwiches. Once I was there buying a popcicle I found that I hadn’t enough money to pay for it; it cost a dime, I only had 9 cents.

There was a GI behind me and he gave me a dime—wouldn’t take my 9 cents in return. Funny, I still remember that young GI after all these years. Thank you very much, I much appreciated your kindness. The PX also sold a lot of candy bars and chips.

Another place I remember is how we used to go to the commissary to buy our groceries. It was always cool in the summer and fairly cramped with all those shelves. I liked the commissary in Frankfurt best as it was a lot bigger. My friends and I had a secret den behind the commissary, built with the crates and boxes thrown out. There were some big trash cans nearby where old food would be thrown out.

Sometimes, to my great shame, we would fish out some candy bars or chewing gum, still in their wrappers, and dust them off and actually eat the stuff!

Urgghh. Still, we all survived.

My mom would often buy food in the local German economy. We would head downtown and buy things in the markets. I especially liked German bread, the sourdough rye bread. It really went nicely with German sliced meats.

I still yearn after some nice ‘Gelb wurst’ or ‘weiss wurst’ on good, freshly baked German bread. I loved donuts as a kid, but the choice in German bakeries was just amazing. There were cakes galore, you could have a different cake every day for a month and still not have gone through all the selections. No wonder so many of the Germans were a little on the large size!

It was the outdoor food stalls that I really remember. There was nothing better on a cold winters’ day than a big, hot Bratwurst, served with a bread roll with plenty of German mustard, perhaps with some sauerkraut.

I also loved the Currywurst, a bratwurst cut into pieces and served with curry powder and ketchup. I also liked the ‘pommes frites’ or fries, served on a paper tray with plenty of ketchup, which you ate with a toothpick. My friends and I used to go into town purely to buy a bratwurst. The place we went to was a small affair, basically a room in a house with an open window. The house was, I remember, built against a church. You stood outside on the sidewalk and ordered your bratwurst through the window. They cost, I seem to remember, 1DM.

You could buy a hotdog on base as well, though they weren’t as good as a bratwurst. In the late 70s, just before we left Germany, they put up a hotdog stand next to the EM club, just across from the bowling center entrance. We used to go to the movies in the evenings and than buy a hotdog on the way home. Before that we used to go to the bowling alley and get our hotdogs there.

The movies, of course, always meant popcorn with plenty of melted butter. The AYA also served good popcorn.

Once I got to Junior High in Schweinfurt it meant taking a packed lunch with us or using the dining facilities in the school. I remember how I got pestered by my friends because they wanted my sandwiches as they were made from German bread with German meat. I don’t think that I thought too highly of the food in the school, it wasn’t better than the food in the snack bar. Another thing I remember about my school days in Germany were of taking packed lunches with us when we went on field trips.

Everyone had a metal lunch box with a little flask in it. My box was in the shape of a barn, my flask was a little silo. Every trip we went on at least one kid ended up with a broken flask, when they opened the flask out came their juice mixed in with broken glass.

I remember that when I was in Schweinfurt Jr. High my friends and I sometimes walked to Ledwards Barracks and ate in the snack bar there, even though it wasn’t allowed. We would often be tardy getting back to school and get into trouble with the teachers.

One late summer weekend in 1978 a German funfair came to the base and set up in the sports ground behind the PX. My friend Tom and I were friendly with a couple of German girls who lived in the German residential area next to the housing area. They were Veronica and Adrias (?) and we asked them to the fair, guess it was our first date.

We were 13. I still remember the sickly sweet toffee we bought, it was so sweet it made you sick. We were showing off in front of them, showing them around OUR base, and took them to the PX and bought them a Hershey bar!

We sometimes used the AFRC facilities and they served some of the best breakfasts I can remember. Big plates of corn hash, little spicy saugages, eggs, crispy bacon slices and plenty of toast. Enough to see you thru a full days’ sightseeing. My parents drank tea or coffee, we got big steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

I spent some time in hospital in Frankfurt. I especially remember the colored jello we got, big bowls of the stuff in vivid greens, yellows and reds. It put me off jello for years. I did like the milk shakes, my favorite was (is) vanilla.

When we used to drive to Frankfurt, Hanau, or even just Schweinfurt or Wurzburg, we would always stop at the snack bars there and get a meal to take with us which we ate in the car. We would be driving home in the gathering dusk eating our fries and ‘burgers, my mom feeding dad as he drove, the car smelling of the fatty aroma of the food.

It was one of those feelings of security you had as a kid. I look back to these occasions, feeling both happy and sad. Never again will dad, mom, my brother and I travel down the autobahn into the sunset like we did back then.

My ultimate food memory comes from our last days in Germany, those warm spring days of April and May 1979. I would be getting home from having been out since the morning with my friends. We had walked, literally, miles and miles. I am dead tired but as I get into the house, right at 1800 hrs.

I smell the warm aroma of home made ‘burgers getting grilled. I wash my hands and sit down, in front of me is a big plate with a big ‘ol burger sitting in a bun, crisp lettuce and a dollop of ketchup. Beside sits a glass of ice cold coke. Around me sit dad, mom and my brother.

Man, want more do you need?

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3 Comments
  1. Great article Alex! I was in Frankfurt in 1973 to 1974 and spent some time in Hanau as well.

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  2. I missed the German food most of all, the brot, sausages, mustard, bier and all of the hot meals off base. Ft. Hood in the 60’s did not offer food that was very interesting. White bread, American cheese and hot dogs, yuck. At least now, with Americans traveling abroad, you can find these items. They even have German food stores, thanks to the German and those who have brought their recipes.

    We lived in Bad Hersfeld, Oberammergau and Nurnberg during the late 50-early 60’s. I live in Red River, New Mexico so I can ski every day. Living in O’gau spoiled me and I’ve always wanted to ski as much as we did then. We even skied to school. The Army Core of Engineers made us ski racks at the military school and a rope tow on one of the foothills near the base housing. I remember standing at attention when the 5pm bugle call sounded, even if I were on skis. Peggy FIrth

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