internment and hot dogs

This is a really interesting NPR story from The Kitchen Sisters and their "Hidden Kitchen" series, about secret, underground, below-the-rader cooking in America, contemporary and historic... This one focuses on the unique food, culture and traditions borne out of the Japanese American internment experience: Weenie Royale: Food and the Japanese Internment
They lived in barrack-like conditions, standing in long lines for little food, eating off tin pie plates in big mess halls. They were fed government commodity foods and castoff meat from Army surplus — hot dogs, ketchup, kidneys, Spam and potatoes. The Japanese diet and family table were erased.

In the early years of the incarceration, grizzled old Army cooks, used to feeding armies of men, now fed women and children. It was wartime, with strict rationing for everyone. At the Topaz Internment Camp in central Utah, it was decided that no one except children under 12 would receive milk — 6 ounces a day. Pregnant women, because their children were unborn, were not allowed any milk. Tami Tomoye Takahashi, who gave birth to two babies at Topaz, found a Sears, Roebuck catalog and ordered calcium tablets to benefit her unborn babies.

In the chaos of the dining hall, families no longer ate together. Teenagers wanted to be with other teenagers. Old people, who had once sat at the extended family table, were isolated. Grandparents, parents and children broke apart in the face of mess hall dining. Mothers no longer could cook for their children. The family table, with its traditions and conversations, began to fade.
According to the story, it was in the internment camps that many Japanese Americans began to acquire the taste for hot dogs, making their way into various hybrid-Japanese recipes and postwar cooking. The story even includes a nice little recipe for Weenie Royale, which is basically hot dogs, eggs and soy sauce over rice. Yum.

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