Hi Don, I have heard some say the SOS means “Same …

Comment on Classics: Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast by Jim.

Hi Don,

I have heard some say the SOS means “Same Old Stuff”. However, that’s the watered-down version. Those who have been in the military remember it being called “S*** on a Shingle” because it often was a congealed mass of flour and meat (usually chipped beef in the Army and ground beef in the Navy), or a soupy white gravy with pieces of meat served over dry pieces of toast. As to why they differed in content, I can only figure it was that the chipped beef didn’t need refrigeration – something that lent it to battlefield conditions; while refrigeration of the ground beef was not normally a problem in the Navy.

That said, I consider the chipped beef to be the real deal. And, whether the “S” is served on toast, biscuits, rice, noodles or potatoes, I still consider SOS to be a comfort food right up there with Cottage Pie, Mac & Cheese, Beef Barley Soup & fresh crusty bread, or a big old plate of spaghetti and meatballs; custard pie and coffee too. 😉

For those of you who freak out at the price of the Chipped Beef, don’t sweat it. A package, or jar….I prefer the jar because it seems to taste better (prolly an ‘Old Jedi Mind Trick’) and you can reuse the container for a glass, like the jelly jars of old…and when made-up can serve a ton of people. Ok, realistically, 4-6 people and maybe 8…but, including the milk and butter, it still comes out to under a buck a head for a stick-to-your-ribs meal. Trust me when I say this, If it wasn’t cost effective, the military would not be serving it as regularly as they do. 🙂

Malcolm, believe me when I tell you that ‘nutmeg’ was not a mandatory ingredient, if fact, I can’t remember it being in any ‘Field Kitchen’ that I remember. But, the Worcestershire sauce was. This, along with catchup, was used to drown out the taste of whatever happened to pass for meat on any given day. You have to remember, on the battlefield, this was not gourmet beef served with a ‘Béchamel Sauce’ such as you describe…this was flour, reconstituted powdered milk, butter, margarine or lard (and often neither) with either chipped beef or ground beef thrown in. 🙂

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the taco-centric blog "Eat More Tacos," and the junk food-centric "Spork & Barrel." His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.