Suicide is painless, having the same meal every day is not. After a while, it will get on your nerves. With my own experience deployed to a tent city in the military, I can attest to the fact that the food leaves a lot to be desired. Like, you start to desire real food. Even a guy like the mostly laid-back, often sardonic Hawkeye Pierce can only take so much.
Even though hash had been around well before the 1940s and 50s, it gained popularity as a WWII-era dish that uses potatoes and other cheap vegetables with leftover meat to extend its shelf life (and appeal). During and after WWII, meat was scarce. On the front lines of the Korean War, fresh meat was just as scarce if available at all. Mess cooks who had to make meat last a little longer naturally added the dish to its staple of mess tent menus. I mean… you have to something to break up the monotony.
To put it the way a Chicago Tribune writer did in a 1988 piece on the history of hash, “hash has always been a dish made of leftovers.” So maybe you have a chunk of turkey or pork lying around?
The 4077th M*A*S*H was positioned close to the front lines of the Korean War. Though Private Igor Straminsky did his best to keep the food he served fresh, it was likely mostly from a can or other low-quality ingredients. Hawkeye’s aforementioned rebellion notwithstanding, almost every episode of the series referenced the food. In fact, the actor who portrayed Pvt. Straminsky wrote a cookbook in the late 1990’s, called Secrets of a M*A*S*H Mess, which included recipes for Pork Choppers with Barbeque Sauce, Intravenous Drip Dip, and Frontline Flapjacks, among others.
The book also includes the private’s recipe for Helmet Hash, which is a good thing, because I just spent all this time setting this recipe up and I’d hate to let you down.
- 2 lbs. meat (Pvt. Igor calls a preference for sausage but I used Corned Beef because I wrote this in late March)
- 1/4 c Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Minced garlic
- 1 1/2 cup diced yellow onions
- 1 cup chopped green onions
- 1 cup each diced red and green bell peppers
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups cooked, diced, unpeeled red potatoes
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tsp white pepper
- Cayenne pepper to taste
Honestly, the real thing you’d have to worry about when serving this to people is overcooking the potatoes before you add them to the rest of the ingredients before you bake it all together. If you’re cooking for realism or to be true to the show, you would really just be cooking the hell out of it.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Brown the meat, let cool, then chop coarsely
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add onions, garlic, peppers, celery, and cook until tender
- Add chicken stock, potatoes, meat and seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes.
Cool before serving.
Helmet Hash is best served with a dry, dirty martini.
Yes, I do happen to own a North Korean flag and Chairman Mao chopsticks.