Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

military sweets are often overlooked, with studies of food and the military generally focusing on the nutritional content of rations. After all, as the popular saying goes, “An army travels on its stomach.” However, since the creation of the U.S. Armed Forces, sweets have sustained our servicemen and women emotionally and physically. Sweets have also served as a goodwill ambassador of sorts, distributed to foreign populations by American troops for generations.

The Revolutionary War–era Continental Congress first established an official field-feeding program for the military in 1775, attempting to standardize rations and their preparation. The basic “garrison ration” allocated per soldier per week typically included beef, pork, or salt fish; bread or flour; milk or either cider or spruce beer plus a small stipend; and peas or beans. Slight variations on this garrison ration remained the standard for servicemen under all conditions, whether they were in camp, in the field, or in combat, from the Revolution through World War I.