Book Review: A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray


by William C. Davis

Lincoln: Bison/University of Nebraska Press, 2011. Pp. xvi, 226. Illus., recipes, notes, biblio., index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 0803235224

In 2003 the prolific Prof. William C. Davis (Virginia Tech) took a break from his prodigious output of books dealing with the great issues, military campaigns, and figures of American history, to give us A Taste for War, which isnow available in a paperback edition. 

In eight chapters, Davis takes a light-hearted look at the state of the culinary arts and the science of nutrition in America at the time of the Civil War (not very high), soldiers’ efforts to cope with their rations (often highly creative) and food preparation (usually primitive), the ubiquitous “flour tile”, as hardtack was often called, hunger in the ranks, and more, including the problem of feeding hospitalized personnel and what he calls the “irrepressible” turkey, the meal of choice for holidays.  That ends the text, but it doesn’t end the book. 

There follow about 60 pages of period recipes, for everything from corn bread and turnip greens to skillygalalee (hardtack fried in pork fat) and rat (“cook as with squirrel and rabbit”) to cane seed coffee and various potables, including Jubal Early’s “stone wall”. 

Altogether an entertraining, informative look at a usually ignored aspect of wartime life.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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