Saturday, June 4, 2016

Food Experiences in Time of War

                          FOOD IN THE ARTS a blog based on The Artist at the Table



The American Revolution

White, John Blake (b. 1781-1859)
General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His Meal, circa 1820

     In early 1781, Revolutionary War militia leader Francis Marion and his men were camping on Snow's Island, South Carolina, when a British officer arrived to discuss a prisoner exchange. As one militiaman recalled years later, a breakfast of sweet potatoes was roasting in the fire, and after the negotiations Marion, known as the "Swamp Fox," invited the British soldier to share breakfast. According to a legend that grew out of the much-repeated anecdote, the British officer was so inspired by the Americans' resourcefulness and dedication to the cause—despite their lack of adequate provisions, supplies or proper uniforms—that he promptly switched sides and supported American independence.

     Around 1820, John Blake White depicted the scene in an oil painting that now hangs in the United States Capitol. In his version, the primly attired Redcoat seems uncomfortable with Marion's ragtag band, who glare at him suspiciously from the shadows of a South Carolina swamp.

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The American Civil War

The War of the Patomac, 1860s

 The Russian Revolution, 1917
 Film Director, Sergei Eisenstein/ Silent/ B&W/ 1925 

In the first great international success of the new Soviet propaganda cinema, Eisenstein's BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN starts with a truly dialectical food drama. The film's opening section is called 'Men and Maggots' and it is the crew's complaint that their meat is crawling with maggots - rejected by an officer, despite the close-up evidence - which sparks a mutiny.

The First World War l (1914 – 1918)
Military Views of Food in War on the Ground:


Lunch in the Trenches WW I, 1916

 New Zealand troops have lunch in the Trenches, WW l

Otto Dix, Mal time in the Trenches (painting, 1923 – 24)

Painting  by   Gilbert Rogers, (b.UK,   -1956) Stretcher-Bearers Preparing Food

Stephen Bones, Ward Room and mess hall on a WW l Submarine, 1945

Discussing the Franco-Prussian War in a Paris Cafe, 1870

SALVATION  ARMY  “Hand it to Them  WWl Poster by James Allen St John

British queing up for  rations, 1940s

FILM   KING RAT (Original story by James Clavell  (Dell, 1962)
    While the context of this tale is a Japanese prisoner of war camp near Singapore, this is not our typical war movie. It is a tale of humanity and suffering, recognition and redemption. One of its principal characters is food.


FILM Feast at Zhurmunka, 1941, Omnibus Fighting Album. Directed by
Vsevolod I. Pudovkin (1893-1953)
        Pudovkin was one of the leading lights of the Soviet film world in the Golden Age of Soviet film during the 1920s and once ranked alongside Sergei Eisenstein among the masters of the silent cinema. Among his best-known films, even in the West, were “Mother” (1926) and “The End of St. Petersburg” (1927), and the classic “Storm Over Asia” (1928), and the comedy, “The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolshevik” (1924). He was a strong supporter of Stalin (and died in the same year, 1953) and was a leading spokesman for nationalism, Russia, and the USSR . 

    “Feast at Zhurmunka,” one of the most widely admired and harrowing war stories on Russian film. It is a short film and the plot is quite simple: a German detachment occupies a village and kills several people. An old woman offers to prepare a feast for them. 
     In his review of wartime films in his book Russian Popular Culture (Cambridge, 1972), Richard Sites summarizes the plot which has an old “peasant woman bearing the ancient rustic name of Praskovya poisoning herself and a German detachment at a feast she has prepared for them.”

Anna Lawton, editor of The Red Screen: Politics, Society and Art in Soviet Cinema (1992) tell us:
      By common consent the best of these short dramas was Feast at Zhurmunka (1941).This sketch was based on Leonov’s scenario and was directed by Pudovkin. Praskovia a Soviet kolkhoz woman, invites  the occupying Germans to a meal at her house and poisons the food. In  front of her guests she eats the poisoned food to allay their suspicions  and encourages them to eat. When the partisans arrive, they find  everyone dead.

Silone, Ignazio (1900-1978). Bread and Wine, 1936 (from the Abruzzo  Trilogy, Fontamara (1930), Bread and Wine (1936), The Seed Beneath the Snow (1940). Silone was twice considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature before his death in 1978.

Vladimirov, Ivan  (b. Lithuania, 1869-1947 Starvation WW l Russia, 1917
St Petersburg
Fresh Kill in the Streets 
St Petersburg,Russia

Beckman,Max 1919  Hunger Plate No 5, from Die Holle

Starvation in he Polish Ghetto, 1940s 

Brett Butterworth, German military Kitchen, 1917

German Society 1920s, after WW l 

Paris Cafe, 1920s

"Dating," a Roaring Twenties Invention

  • SPAM was used as a B-ration — to be served in rotation with other meats behind the lines overseas and at camps and bases in the States. However, many times GIs were eating it two or three times a day.
  • SPAM was incorporated into the language of the war. Uncle Sam became Uncle SPAM, while food supply depots were SPAM Canyons. One military encampment in the South Pacific went so far as to dub itself SPAMVILLE. A photo of the camp showed the word SPAMVILLE painted on a makeshift watertower. A replication of SPAMVILLE is on display in the SPAM Museum.
  • Throughout 1943, Hormel Foods hired 448 women to replace men serving in the war.
  • Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote, "Without SPAM we wouldn't have been able to feed our army."
 North Korean propaganda poster extolling the plenty and social solidarity in the         North, 1950s

Stanabrook,Stephan (b.  ) On the road to heaven. On the road to hellSuicide bomber in chocolate (Middle East war)


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