Thanksgiving 1954: Saltines and Navy Blended Coffee Aboard the USS Yorktown

Ever in the holiday spirit, Patriots Point, which sent us a USS Yorktown cookie recipe for Veterans Day, shared the below menu from the aircraft carrier’s 1954 Thanksgiving dinner.

yorktownmenu2

The menu is stamped with a few oldfangled touches, such as the hot mincemeat pie and after-dinner cigars. But it’s also testament to how little the standard holiday menu has changed in more than half a century: Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, two kinds of potatoes, pumpkin pie and Parker House rolls are immediately recognizable as a Thanksgiving meal.

The only traditional dish missing from the spread was green bean casserole, but the Yorktown cooks had a good excuse: The Campbell Soup Company didn’t come up with the recipe until the following year.

Also in 1955, the Navy announced plans to shut down the Oakland and Brooklyn coffee roasting facilities responsible for the service branch’s very own “Navy Blended Coffee.” “Soon the Navy’s going to steam along on commercial coffee brands, just like civilians,” the News and Courier reported. By 1956, Navy Blended Coffee was off the menu.

Even without branded beans, the Yorktown’s crew no doubt continued to brew very strong coffee. “Probably strong enough a spoon could stand in it,” collections curator Melissa Buchanan says. Late-night watches, stopovers in very cold places and fondness for hard drink all contributed to sailors’ longstanding reliance on strong coffee.

All Hands Magazine in 1949 joked about a woman who was hosting sailors at her house. She added extra coffee to her pot, and boiled it twice as long as usual: “The visitors nodded approvingly when the beverage was served. When time came to leave, one turned gallantly to his hostess and remarked, “Ma’am, I wanna tell you that was the finest tea I’ve ever tasted.”

(Feel free to borrow if conversation flags around your holiday table. Happy Thanksgiving.)

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