C rations came in a carton. In the field, the men ate before the officers. If there wasn’t enough food, the officers did without. They adhered to that. At one time, the officers chose last and would end up with the worst of what was left. So, to make it fair for everyone, C ration cartons were opened upside down so the labels were face down. Everyone picked a box at random.
Typical entrees included: 1) beefsteak, which looked like a can of tuna and had three or four slices of beefsteak in it, but was so salty I couldn’t eat it; 2) ham and eggs chopped, which we used to call “H.E.s”, short for “high explosives” and which looked like canned cat food, though there were guys who loved it; 3) boned chicken, which was simply shredded white chicken; 4) pork and beans, which was basically hot dogs and beans; 5) ham and lima beans, known to me as “ham and slimeys”; and 6) turkey loaf, which looked like the ham and eggs chopped but wasn’t as bad. Ham and slimeys were my favorite, hot or cold. Most guys were grossed out by the layer of gelatinous fat on top of the ham, but it didn’t bother me.
Every C ration box came with a dark brown foil pouch of toilet paper, matches, cigarettes, a Chiclet (gum), a spoon, salt and pepper, instant coffee, creamer, and sugar. Boxes also contained canned bread or crackers, a spread (peanut butter or cheese), and a dessert. Two of the desserts were decent: pecan cake and pound cake. Most of us hated the fruitcake. All of the cakes came with canned pears, apricots, or peaches. My favorite dessert was peaches and pound cake. I lived for that treat!
In order to heat our C rats, we’d take an empty can (typically from the pound cake; short and smaller in diameter) and poke holes in the side of it for air flow. Then we’d take a heating tablet (issued separately in foil) or some C-4 and light it with a match. The C-4 burned like a small torch. The heating tablet was a slower steadier burn. Either way, it was an effective way to enhance our limited culinary experience.