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recipe and history of SOS

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Submitted by: E. Wickenheiser

It's said that an Army fights well on a full stomach and the Marine Corps is no exception. Always and foremost, in training or in combat, the breakfast meal is number one. For every "grunt", "airedale" and/or "pinky" at the start of the workday. Breakfast is the link to "making it" that day, and "a breakfast without SOS is like a day without sunshine."

We can only imagine or guess at what the meals and types of food were being served at Tunn's, or with O'Bannon in Tripoli, but I'll bet you, they had some sort of S.O.S.

The original creamed ground beef now served at every Marine breakfast had many stories of origin, the story that I was told was, that it was first served during World War I in France.

The Marine forces on the line were served meals that were prepared by the Army, from field kitchens in the rear. On this one occasion during a battle, the Marines moved so fast forward that the Army Mess Company couldn't keep up with the advancement. On that particular evening the cooks had prepared a meal which was roasted beef with a cream gravy (Boeuf le Creme de Argonne) and sent it up to the front lines.

It took the mess men all night to find the location of the fast moving Marine Brigade, and the meal was not delivered until the next morning.

Not wanting to waste the food and not having the tools to serve it properly, the Marine First Sgt. ordered that the meat and gravy (sauce) be placed on the dry bread and handed to each man. The men being very hungry did not complain but instead requested that this meal be served again, but with the proper utensils.

Over the following years the recipe changed depending on the availability of supplies and the mood of the cook. Do to the lack of funds given to the Marine Corps by the Navy, especially in hard times (like now), many of the cooks could not afford to purchase the beef roasts needed in the recipes for "Boeuf le Creme de Argonne" and other beef dishes. They therefore substituted the less expensive, ground beef in place of the roasts.

This was quite popular as an evening meal and was served a number of times a week. One big advantage that the cooks liked was that there was little or no waste, leftovers could be served the next morning. It grew in popularity more for breakfast than for the evening meal and today it's never served other than for breakfast.

The other branches of service (Army, Navy, etc.) will also serve their version of SOS, but they haven't mastered the Marine's technique of preparing this marvelous breakfast presentation.

The Army uses chipped and salted dried beef (yuk), and the Navy uses beans and tomatoes in their recipe (barf !), the Air Force gave up trying and our friends in the Coast Guard now eat breakfast in the nearest Marine mess hall.

A number of years ago (back in the 70's), San Francisco's own Marine Artillery General (Brigadier) Tiago, requested/ordered that a recipe for the Marine Corps famous S.O.S. (creamed beef on toast) be developed so that it could be serve to a small group of about eight (8) persons, this way the general could have his wife make it at home. The official recipe for the mess halls is for serving 300 or more. This challenge was taken up by his chief field artillery cook, M/Sgt Bernie Parker. After many tries and a few mistakes "Top" Parker came up with the following, near perfect, recipe.
Recipe for "Marine Breakfast"
(Serves 8 or two hungry Marines)
1/2 lb. Ground Beef (ground chuck for flavor)
1 tbs. Bacon fat (lard/Crisco or butter)
3 tbs. Flour
2 cups Whole milk (add more milk if you want it thinner)
1/8 tsp. Salt
Pepper (to taste)
8 slices of dry toast
Using a large skillet (12"-14"), crumble and brown the ground beef with the fat and salt, remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly.
Mix in the flour until all of the meat is covered, using all of the flour. Replace the skillet on the heat and stir in the milk, keep stirring until the mixture comes to a
boil and thickens (boil a minimum of 1 minute).
Serve over the toast. Salt & pepper to taste. "Semper fi"
post #2 of 23
i love the stuff! dried beef one too. sorry.

my elementary school would serve it once in a while. they called hamburg gravy. trying to keep us pure and not swearing too much, i guess.

thanks for the history lesson.
post #3 of 23
My dad used to make this with either chipped beef or hamburger....man that does bring back memories!! I'm going to make some this weekend....thanks for the post!!
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
yes, this is easy and good stuff. my kids ask for it all the time..I was hopeing we here at the SMF could bump it up a notch by using smoked beef, pork what ever to make it better. and posting our recipes here.
post #5 of 23
there was a program on the telly last week and they showed you the us army's creamed beef recipe. Never ehard of it till then.
The emphasis is on high calorie and standardisation :-)
It's apprently beena staple of the us army for a long time and you get it exactly the same all over the world on bases.
The actual recipe they showed had almost as much added fat as meat - like I said it's designed to keep soldiers going so serious calorific value.

I would think that unless you were actually training hard - small amounts only lol
post #6 of 23
MMMMMM, my grandpa is ex-navy and he used to make the dried salted beef one for me when I was a little kid. It is quite possibly my favorite breakfast, especially with an over easy egg or two on top of it. That is gonna be my breakfast here this weekend too. Nice to learn a little bit of history about something so delicious.
post #7 of 23
SOS over a chicken fried steak and eggs. Now your talking breakfast!
post #8 of 23
Works good using sausage as well icon_smile.gif
post #9 of 23
now THAT sounds tasty.....

I'll take a plate!
post #10 of 23
I ain't saying your wrong, but the cooks on the ships and bases I served on didn't make this mistake, they made it the right way...with a recipe similar to what you posted.

SOS is what we ate every Saturday morning growing up, before we hit the hay fields.

I love this stuff, definitely gonna have to make some soon for my family.

PDT_Armataz_01_37.gifPoints for the memories and History Lesson
post #11 of 23
I use this same recipe to make great sasuage gravey.When both my boys are in town I use 1 lb.Sasuage cooked til browned,left over grease ,flour, mix but don't brown,pour in milk and salt&pepper to taste.Stir,stir,and stir til it boils and thickens.Put on toast,And I put Sliced boiled eggs over mine. Yummmm!!!icon_smile.gif
post #12 of 23
Coyote, you just struck a main artery to my memory. Now I've got to have some.
post #13 of 23
Lordy Lordy! I still love that stuff.
We had one guy in the Corps that when he heard they were serving S.O.S. he'd grab a bottle of tobasco sauce out of his locker and head for the mess hall. He'd put so much on it we wondered how he ate it, but he did, and go back for more. LOL

Thanks for the memory.

Semper Fi
post #14 of 23
Mom made it with dried beef. Way back when, the Army was making it with ground beef. The latrines were busy after breakfast. LOL
post #15 of 23
Actually, if you look in Wikipedia, SOS is chipped beef and gravy on toast, nothing to do with ground beef and gravy. The beef was cured, smoked and dried so it could be transported without refrigeration over long distances, perfect for Army cooks to utilize. Being highly salted it needed to be served in a gravy to help cut the salt taste and sliced thin to maximize it's use; the smoked flavor enhanced the gravy tremendously. Here's the link:

After a long bout with ulcers, my dad (who remembered SOS all too well during his Army days in WWII) cooked up some Armour's Dried beef into SOS and about gagged; he knew of and was well familiar with the smoky dried beef the Army used, preserved so well "...even could last thru Hiroshima.." he'd often quip. Being in the meat business, he vowed to make his own. He got some local heiferette rounds from Smitty's slaughterhouse who killed and sold lean local beef (heiferette vs. bull, being more tender 350-400lb carcass weight) and seamed them out into eye-round size, pumped them with his ham pickle juiced up with twice the salt, soaked for 30 days in same, then smoked for 2 days vs. 1. He chipped it on his slicer and sold it in ¼lb. bags for $1.29 each (this was in the 70's!). When warmed up in a milk gravy it imparted its smoky flavor deliciously throughout the gravy, the saltiness making it just right and was an instant hit with customers; he had to buy two automatic slicers just to keep up with the demand, processing 300lb lots of it 2, 3, sometimes 4 times a week. Us kids had to weigh and bag it up in baggies and attach headers w/state inspection seals on them to the bags every night as part of our chores (but we'd get to sample a lot, lol!).

A pic of Dad at the store with one of the automatic Hobart slicers behind him:
post #16 of 23
biggrin.gif Well, the link won't work because of the ****, but if you go to Wikipedia and type in the Sh___ on a shingle and do a search, it comes up with SOS and tells of chipped beef and gravy on toast!biggrin.gif
post #17 of 23
This recipe is for Dutch oven for me this summer, thanks, I'm always looking for D.O. recipes
post #18 of 23

I must disagree with you concerning your statement about  the Army's version of SOS.


Having been in Food Service for 22 of my 29 years in the Army I can truthfully say that chipped beef was never used in the SOS served in my mess hall, only ground beef.  There was a recipe which specified the use chipped beef but we never used it nor did I ever encounter it in any other unit I was visiting.  The Army version is almost identical to the one you show in your post.


My father was a Mess Sgt during WWII and Korea and served the same version I served so SOS was a family tradition when I was growing up.  My brother was a swab jockey and could never get used to the Navy's version.


My wife and I currently own a bed & breakfast and about 10 years ago a retired Marine and his wife stayed with us.  That evening while he and I were swapping "lies and war stories" he asked if we ever served SOS for breakfast.  I answered that we hadn't but I would certainly be willing to make some for him since my wife, as well as his, didn't care for this wonderful dish.  They come stay with us at least twice a year and he and I enjoy this dish each time.  It brings back a lot of memories!


Thanks for your service and God Bless!


SGM Toodles

post #19 of 23

wow when dad when come home from deployments that would be the first thing my sisters and i would ask for him to make for us!!!! Brings back so many memories i think i will have to make it this weekend being that my son has never had it and my wife hates it!(she to is ex military) It is going to be epic.  

post #20 of 23

Loved SOS when I was in the Navy. I especially loved it when we were floating around Alaska keeping our eye on Russia. It was cold and SOS kept me warm.

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