Lychees and salmon for Canada's desert soldiers

Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:39am EDT
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By Emma Graham-Harrison

FOB SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - In the dusty heart of the Panjwai valley, there are waffles and real maple syrup for breakfast, salmon and tagliatelle for dinner, and lychees, ice-cream and home-made cookies for desert.

The lucky diners are not VIP visitors but Canadian soldiers, who between meals head out to fight the Taliban in the poppy fields and narrow mud lanes of one of the most dangerous corners of southern Afghanistan.

"Napoleon said 'An army marches on its stomach'. We haven't forgotten that," said Lieutenant Colonel Marcel McNicholl, Canada's senior gunner in Afghanistan.

The Canadians are preparing to withdraw their combat troops after nearly a decade fighting in Afghanistan, and with them will go a network of combat kitchens that even other armies admit serve up some of the best food of the war.

"We aren't going to eat as well when they've gone," said one of the U.S. soldiers replacing the Canadian troops at Forward Operating Base Sperwan Ghar, who asked not to be named for betraying such unpatriotic sentiments.

U.S. bases often provide only ration packs at lunch.

A dedication to keeping the army well fed in even the most inhospitable outposts has been bolstered by the French-Canadian culinary heritage of the unit currently serving in Sperwan Ghar, on the edge of the Reg desert.

The menu includes dishes like tourtiere du lac -- a meat pie -- and chicken cordon bleu.   Continued...