The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Special Dispatch: Trenchard Lines Mess, Basra

Trenchard Lines Mess
Contingency Operating Base
Basra International Airport
Basra
Iraq

by Private Yolk

Amid the palette of hazy browns that perpetually blankets the home of British Forces in Iraq, there is a sole beacon of colour that cuts through the fuzz. Nestled between oversized sandbags and shaded under the giant arched sunshades lies our own Mesopotamian desert oasis: Trenchard Lines Mess.

Chef Omar and his team regularly serve up a veritable feast of traditional British delights. For the temporary ex-pats innovation is not the mot de jour when it comes to the most important meal of the day. Hash browns, pork sausages (!), bacon (!!), baked beans, eggs (the exact incarnation a daily revelation) and fried toast are always provided piping hot. Also, a choice of cereals that almost runs into double figures, brown and white bread (flanked by an industrial toaster that rivals the International Space Station in engineering complexity), fresh fruit and a tasteful choice of cold meats serve as a nod to the spreading breakfasting habits of those usually associated with the Officer Class.

Most crucially, the opening times have been carefully considered to accommodate the 24/7 lifestyle of those working on the base. Security prevents the divulging of exact details, but suffice to say shiftworkers, early risers, nightowls and those deciding to have a lie in are all catered for.

The decor is a combination of retro-chic, truck-stop functionality and the community of a school canteen. Simple but striking informative 'artwork' and a whiteboard of complexity rivalling an early Jackson Pollock break up the expanse of the jovial yellow walls, further complimented by the sumptuous ochre internal blast walls. Collectively, these features create an intimate atmosphere more befitting a 1950s American diner than a frontline mess hall.

Despite providing ample storage for body armour and personal weapons, the proprietors have provided a welcome relaxed atmosphere to those who are placing them around their tables. Indeed, the chance to examine your eating companions' kit provides as much of a welcome discussion opener as the large TV carrying the latest from the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

Sadly, like many British institutions, the future of the mess is under review. As the continual creep of Americanisation permeates the furthest flung corners of the globe, so too are we facing the potential that our Iraqi egg options will be replaced by 'sunny side up' and other such butchery of the English culinary lexicon. If Trenchard Mess is to be incorporated into a new monolithic 'welfare facility' then we can only hope space is allowed for our breakfast soldiers to continue to serve Queen and Country. Morale depends on it.

10 Comments:

Blogger Private Chef said...

Hi There

I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of "all the food blogs in the world" on www.ifoods.tv which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

4:38 PM, May 14, 2008  
Anonymous Malcolm Eggs said...

Thanks PC - really glad you like the photos.

5:09 PM, May 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great dispatch.
The one and only time I've ever imagined myself actually going to Basra.
HB

5:14 PM, May 14, 2008  
Anonymous Reg Bhaji said...

This blog is about food? I assumed it was very well written if sarcastic social commentary. I feel certain that is how history will determine it

8:22 PM, May 14, 2008  
Anonymous Megan Bacon said...

excellent post!

6:28 PM, May 15, 2008  
Anonymous Lettie De Jeuner said...

A question:

Would Chef Omar and his team happen to be Iraqi Muslims by any chance?
And if so, do you Private Yolk and your squaddie buddies, not feel any kind of, er, I don't know, twinge of conscience whatsoever that they are serving up pork products for you all in order to provide you with the necessary energy to continue occupying their country?
A word of advice: come home now. Ditch the military and take up writing. Your contribution was inspired...

6:30 PM, May 16, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to see that John Pilger reads the LRB.

9:43 AM, May 19, 2008  
Anonymous Mike said...

The Trenchard mess building is still there as I am writing this comment from Trenchard Lines, but it's only used for storage now. Soon, as the last big unit to reside in Trenchard leaves the country in the next few months decisions are being made to either bulldoze the whole Lines area, or possibly continue to use it as the Basrah base will shrink in size in the next year or so.

7:24 AM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Malcolm Eggs said...

Hi Mike,

thanks for the update - that may save a journey for any particularly intrepid readers. Keep us updated. I have recently got hold of two breakfast ration packs as issued to British forces in Afghanistan - would be interested in what the Basra equivalent contains.

Malcolm

1:50 PM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the new "Mayor" of the Trenchard Lines compound, and an American, I regret to report that our monolith chow hall did, in fact, toll the bell for your beloved mess. 1ID has converted that particular building, and those adjacent, to a resiliency center for soldiers. So, it lives on in service. We are the new residents of the CHU's left by the Brits- and happy to have them. Though I can't say I've heard many folks rave about British Cuisene, I'll just assume things were as tasty as you profess.

12:42 PM, September 08, 2010  

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