Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jesse Halsey in Russia

Jesse Halsey | YMCA Eagle Hut | August 1918
My great biggest culinary hit in Russia was baked beans, made after the New England fashion and cooked for a day and a night, or even longer, in one of these great Russian ovens.

On one of our national holidays, Fourth of July, I think, some of our men begged for pie. With difficulty, I obtained a little reasonably white flour, but the only shortening available was seal oil. Now, some of the Labrador skippers had told me that they had carried seal oil to Spain and, without changing casks, had cleared their cargo in New York as olive oil. I never believed this yarn but, remembering advertisements of corn oil for shortening in piecrust, I managed to negotiate a flaky crust with the seal oil. The filling for the pie was a compote of, more or less, wormy Swedish apples, sweetened with some kind of molasses compound. In a hot Russian oven the pies were successfully baked, and of their appearance I was not ashamed. But my companions complained that they had a rather rancid flavor! Why shouldn’t they?

My war sermons I have never heard about and, like many another preacher’s, it is just as well; the blood and thunder that went into them never received Christian baptism.

My Labrador experiences had fitted me for the Russian. The reindeer of Lapland are better than any we had in Labrador. I had a hand in preparing for intervention in Russia. Of course, of this I have never been very proud, but at the time it seemed the thing to do, and the routes that Shackleton developed I traversed a year earlier, making some of the preliminary plans. A month in London near the end of the war with all the facilities of the Admiralty at my disposal I made quick shipments of vast stores into north Russia. Interesting experiences in uniform and overalls nonetheless; there are too many to relate here.

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