Martin Field 2009-09-17T08:30:48+00:000000004830200909 Food and Wine

War-games with oyster entrée

In March 1965, a bunch of us Regular Army electronics technicians were posted to provide backup for CMF* war games in the bush near Tea Gardens, New South Wales.

 On the penultimate day of pretending-to-shoot-each-other manoeuvres, a CMF officer (i.e. a sweating red-faced jumped up bank teller from Sydney) ordered us to work as kitchen staff in the officers’ mess tent for their farewell dinner the next night. ‘Nah,’ we said, ‘we didn’t come here to wait on weekend warriors.’ Or words to that effect.

He went away muttering about undisciplined rabble and later came back. ‘What if we pay you?’ ‘Okay… Sir.’ (Cue limp salute here.)

One of the entrées on the dinner menu was fresh local oysters – a dozen for each diner. My friend Bevan ate a couple, said they were excellent and advised me to try one. I’d never eaten raw oysters before and was a bit iffy. But with a squeeze of lemon and a crust of bread, I took the plunge.

So did a few of the other kitchen hands, and we washed them down with vin very ordinaire and cans of beer we’d scrounged from the officers’ bar.

I ate a few more, and by the time we’d plated up, each officer had been rationed to only six oysters per plate.

Later, when the catering lieutenant paid us, he sounded miffed, ‘I thought we were getting a dozen oysters each.’

‘Quite a few were off…Sir. We disposed of them,’ explained one of the undisciplined rabble.

*CMF – Citizens Military Forces, now the Army Reserve.

: Oysters, Wine