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Demystifying the DFAC

“Bill, the food here’s even worse than what we ate in South*East* Asia…” said the pre-getting-to-AfStan e-gram from a (former) Greenie-Beanie I’ve known since the Bad Old Days. Which turned out to be somewhat of an exaggeration on Jay-Jay’s part, but only somewhat.

It’s only worse than maybe 75% of the c-rats we used to consume – even the stuff left over from Dubuhya-Dubuhya Two…

Now, the DFAC here in Kabul is definitely *different* from what a randomly-selected, Previously-Deployed Gentleman or Lady may have been used to in Previous Theaters of Operation. Since KAIA North is the headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force (abbreviated ISAF and pronounced “EYE-saff” if you’re planning to drop buzzwords at your next soirée) – and “International” is an understatement – us ‘Murrican-types *don’t* dictate the menu in the chow hall. For starters, the DFAC Overseer Manager is a Brit, so the food has a decidedly Euro flavor (take that as you will) to it.

Consider that he has to put something on the chow line three times a day that *most* of his patrons1 will deem edible, if not necessarily palatable.

Consider also that his culinary staff is Malaysian and Pakistani, and their chow was Empire-influenced for several hundred years. There's a *reason* that there are no five star Brit-Malay-Paki Fusion Restaurants in the Guide Michelin.

No single-star ones, either, as far as I can tell...

So, after three o’dark-thirty walks to brekkies and finding boiled eggs, baked beans, and pancakes (with peanut butter, no less) as an offering, I decided I’d buy a coffee pot for the room and sleep the extra twenty minutes.

Now throw in the additional fun-factor that a convoy with actual food on it may only pull through the gate once a month (there's only been one since I’ve been back), so the semis are usually carrying things with a shelf-life comparable to the lifespan of a bristlecone pine…

The Brits may not be famed for haute cuisine, but they’re decidedly inventive. That said, I hereby present for your amusement edification about a fortnight’s-worth of suppertime offerings (I imagine the luncheon menu is similar, but I usually just gulp down a can of chunk tuna at work, so I can’t vouch for it) – both the listing on the menu board and the actual item in the tray behind the sneeze-guard:    

DFAC Offering



  • Barbecued Spare Ribs
  • Rib-ish looking bones in barbecue sauce
  • Beef Satay
  • Curried beef with peas and carrots in brown gravy
  • Chicken Satay
  • Curried chicken with peas and carrots in brown gravy
  • Lamb Satay
  • Curried mutton with peas and carrots in brown gravy
  • Chicken Chow Mein
  • Curried chicken with peas and carrots over spaghetti
  • Pork Chow Mein
  • Spam® cubes with peas and carrots over spaghetti
  • Gammon-Brie Baguette
  • Spam® slice on half a hot dog bun with mozzarella
  • Gammon Steak Hawaiian Style
  • Spam® slice with pineapple chunks
  • Lasagna
  • Ground beef, peas and carrots with cheese and noodles
  • Vegetable Lasagna
  • Peas and carrots with cheese and noodles
  • (Turkey, Veal, Etc.) Parmesan
  • "Mystery meat" with ketchup
  • Paella
  • Curried rice with peas, carrots, and Spam® cubes
  • Seafood Paella
  • Curried rice with peas, carrots, and fish bits
  • Pasta Carbonara
  • Macaroni 'n' cheese with Spam® cubes
  • Pasta Primavera
  • Macaroni 'n' cheese with peas and carrots
  • Ragout of Beef
  • Peas and carrots in brown gravy with gristle
  • Sausage Wellington
  • Hot dog wrapped in fillo dough


  • Beef Vegetable Soup
  • Peas and carrots in *watery* brown gravy
  • Black Bean Soup
  • Kidney bean soup
  • Chicken Vegetable Soup
  • Peas and carrots in surprisingly good chicken broth
  • Potato-Garlic Soup
  • Garlic soup
  • Potato-Leek Soup
  • Leek tops in white gravy
  • Sweet and Sour Soup
  • Chicken broth with Tabasco®


  • Boiled Rice
  • Boiled rice
  • Boiled Rice with Garden Vegetables
  • Boiled rice with peas and carrots
  • Boiled Swedes
  • Mashed rutabagas
  • Brussels Sprouts Almandine
  • Brussels sprouts with chopped peanuts
  • Carrots Lyonnaise
  • Boiled sliced carrots
  • Cauliflower au gratin
  • Creamed cauliflower
  • Green Beans Almandine
  • Green beans with chopped peanuts
  • Leeks au Beurre Blanc
  • Leek tops in white gravy
  • Potatoes Lyonnaise
  • Boiled sliced 'taters
  • Ratatouille
  • Potatoes, onions, peas and carrots in brown gravy


  • Garden Vegetable Salad
  • Shredded lettuce with peas and carrots
  • Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad
  • Macaroni with peas and carrots
  • Pasta Salad with Roasted Pepper
  • Macaroni with peas and carrots, heavily peppered
  • Red Lettuce Salad
  • Shredded red cabbage with peas and carrots
  • Salad Dressing
  • Olive oil cut 60/40 with hot sauce


  • Apple Spice Cake
  • Apple spice cake / carrot cake JDAMed with cinnamon
  • Assorted Fruits
  • Canned pineapple ring, peach yogurt(?), canned berries
  • Greek Rice Pudding
  • Rice pudding drizzled with brown gravy
  • Ice Cream (sort of white)
  • Either vanilla or lemon (or lemony vanilla)
  • Ice Cream (light beige)
  • Either chocolate, coffee, or rum raisin
  • Ice Cream (bubblegum pink)
  • Either strawberry, raspberry, or very bland cherry
  • Sponge Pudding
  • Fruitcake cubes


All things considered, that’s pretty doggone inventive, don’tcha think?

Of course, I can’t vouch for the comestibility of the offerings, because I usually dip a spoon into my coffee before I chow down – then I use it to sear my taste buds.

I’ve done that ever since I got my first taste of the brown gravy.

They put %$#@! *mint* in it…!

Customers by volume: French, USAF, Belgians, Czechs, Italians, Brits, Dutch, US Army, Canadians, DoD civiliansSpanish, Germans, contractors, US NavyMongolians, Greeks, and a Marine.


I want the contract to supply peas and carrots...  Judging by the menu, I'd be rich!  Also kinda surprised that there isn't a peas n' carrots desert.  In PI, they have sweet potato ice cream, so why not peas n' carrots?

PS.  Blecccch!
So a British inspired, mass produced, shopped for fresh each month and delivered a few months later. Fused with so many cultures like an Lady of the Night's undergarments.

The French probably consider this a penal colony.  The Japanese probably *want* to go for a "How many days can you survive full helpings of..." TV challenge.  No doubt accompanied by groans and screams of pain over the overflowing drop zones.

PS the lettuce is suspicious.  How the hell did it last the trip.
Gee, Sorta makes you long for that C-ration favorite of Ham chunks in spice sauce with Lima Beans.
On second thought, maybe it's just a QM plot to run down the stocks of older MRE's in theatre, so that they don't have to contract out for disposal of hazardous waste.
Reminds me of Doha in Kuwait where we started eating MRE's instead of going to the DFAC.  I don't know if it was intentional or cross contamination, but I really don't care for curried eggs for breakfeast... I found myself missing the turkey loaf C-Rat.
When you're stationed at Bagram, eating at the NATO DFAC on the odd trip to ISAF/IJC was a treat...something different.

When that's your menu every day, yeah, it gets old quick.  And I worked the night shift, and midnight chow was a minimum effort kind of thing, which didn't help matters.

Might want to check the sign outside the big HQ - I'm pretty sure NKAIA is home to IJC (ISAF Joint Cmd), and HQ ISAF is still downtown across the street from the embassy.
I am horrified. Who in their right mind would add peas and carrots to lasagna? They'll never get it to explode with that stuff in there contaminating the mix. Amateurs. Yeesh....
 "Boiled Swedes"?
Might want to check the sign outside the big HQ...

There's no sign outside the big HQ -- just oversized double T-walls with NATO GIs manning the entry hole. There *are* a couple dozen antennae on the roof, though. I only pass by there on the way to the barber shop, and I haven't done *that* since January...

Who in their right mind would add peas and carrots to lasagna?

The first thing I thought when I saw that was "SKK will *not* approve of this." Okay, that was actually the *second* thing I thought. The first thing I thought was "Great galloping gobs of [redacted]."

Yeah, "boiled Swedes." Dunno why the Brits call rutabagas "Swedes," but then, I don't know why they call a car's hood a bonnet, either...
 I don't know why they call a car's hood a bonnet, either...

That got started during Easter Week 1916, when they were trying to get in on a parade in Dublin, and...
No wonder SugarButtons is feeling bilious--no Cheesy-Bean Burritos!  The horror!

I have an overwhelming urge to infiltrate and substitute wasabi peas.  And stash hidden webcams to watch the fun.  (That would probably also weaponize the lasagna. )
 Mr. Brown, I want you, and everyone else here to know to that I had nothing to do with the menu. This QM is a navigator, not a supply type. I will get Bill lost, but I will not poison him, I assure you.
That got started during Easter Week 1916, when they were trying to get in on a parade in Dublin, and...


Two questions
Did they render the rice inedible?
Wheres the Tang in the recipes?
Was the JDAm'e cinnamon any good?

I really had a life long believe that you really could not screw up rice…..but they did… Was reduced to actually walking off the FACP to the nearest highway and hitch hiking to get Spam, Ritz crackers, and Skittles.

Was a long time ago, but bet they still screw up the rice. Long time ago as when the Iranians were just getting rambunctious (like JUST getting started, one guy in my unit was in the Embassy the FIRST time they took it, another LT was the guy controlling the SH53 that crashed on top of the C130 durning Eagle Claw)

As they said in some old TV show, be careful out there!


Bill - I feel for ya.  When I was in Iraq in 2006, the central DFAC at FOB Speicher outside Tikrit had an American manager and workerbees from Ceylon.  Some of the things we got served were...

...well, I guess they weren't quite indescribable.  I just wish they were:

"Barbecued Beef Brisket" = slices of corned beef brisket smothered in barbecue sauce

"Mixed Vegetable Salad" =  conventional mixed vegetables (green beans, peas, carrots, corn) congealed into a semi-solid mass with mayonaise.  Every few days they would vary this by adding curry powder to the mayo. 

And then there was the infamous "White Stuff on Your Plate"  night, when the two meats were either fried chicken patties or fried pork chops, both served with white cream gravy, and the sides on the steam table were mashed potatos, boiled potatos, rice, noodles, and steamed artichoke hearts.

On the other hand, Wednesdays were Indian-Cuisine-On-The-Buffet days, and that was actually pretty good.  Even if dal do go "glop" onto your plate.

Isn't that a British king from days gone by? See what I mean... they always worm their way into holidays...
 You're thinking of Good King Winceslaus, who stood on feets uneven, then looked out and went "ker-CHEW" when he saw all the snew.

"What's snew?"
"Not much. What's snew with you?"

Dinner was Lamb Biryani (curried mutton, curried rice, curried raisins, cubes of curried rutabaga, peas and carrots), Mexican Salad (rice, green beans, peas and carrots), and beige ice cream (it could have been coffee, but it tasted a bit like butterscotch, too). One of these days, I'll have to ask them how they manage to cook food without applying any actual heat to it...
Someone put too many zeros on the peas and carrots order form.  This biryani* will probably be converted into brown sauce at some point.  The curried mutton, rice, rutabaga componets of this delectable dish* are from previous meal leftovers.  Which themselves are likely from a previously previous meal leftovers.  In fact, if you analyse the foodstream you can probably find stuff in there from the very beginning.

Found a swede cook suitable for your DFAC Manager's consideration.  He'll give those rutabags a real lift I'm sure.


Waitress: Morning!
Man: Well, what've you got?
Waitress: Well, there's peas and carrots; peas green beans and carrots; peas and spam;
peas carrots and spam; peas carrots green beans and spam; spam carrots green beans
and spam; spam peas spam spam carrots and spam; spam green beans spam spam
carrots spam tomato and spam;
Waitress: ...spam spam spam peas and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked
beans spam spam spam...
Waitress: ...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a
Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with
truffle pate, brandy and with a fried peas on top and spam.
There was a new item on the salad bar tonight -- Russian Salad.

Potatoes, peas and carrots slathered in mayo...
I hit the ground in Bagram a couple of days ago and am, after a couple of days of DFAC meals,  thinking that I might be going to someone for cases of MRE's.
We can't get MREs. Lunch is a can of tuna or corned beef and a couple of TUC crackers from the Euro PX. The crackers are -- savor the irony! -- made in Karachi...
Bill, Can I send you some real food? Or at least something without peas and carrots.....
Let me know!!
I did a year at KAF, and I figure half of the meals I ate that year were meat like sauce over rice.  The whole base was ISAF, so the only US DFACs were temporary things, shut down or started up over the year.  I'm trying to repress those memories, but found things like creamed tuna with peaches in the desert racks.  I figured the whole mess concept fell in the category of Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.  I kept expecting to see Cthulhu inspecting the food shipments. 
Bill, Can I send you some real food? Or, at least some that doesn't have carrots and peas in it....
 Hiya, OH! You should pop out from behind the curtains more often!

I kept expecting to see Cthulhu inspecting the food shipments.

Far as I know, they hired him on as the chief cook, Graves. Gammon a la mode R'lyeh, Ph'nglui Lyonnaise, and Wgah'nagl Fhtagn with Garden Vegetables were all on the menu last night.

I keep expecting a comment on the brown gravy with mint, but maybe I've been OCONUS too long and that's some new Emeril thing...

Brown Gravy with Mint sounds disgusting. This from a guy that liked Ham and Lima Beans C-rats.

I think the health Department of West Virginia would close down a restraunt serving Brown Gravy with Mint and hang the owner. Even WV has some standards.

You may not have been OCONUS long enough given the electoral choice we're facing this November. Bora Boar might be a better choice. Palau wouldn't be since we turned a couple of Muslim Tangos loose there. Assuming they like it and stayed. There may not have been enough goats for them there.
What? No "Chicken-a-la-thing", over instant mashed potatoes?
No creamed dried beef, over instant mashed potatoes?
No ground mystery meat in white gravey over instant mashed
potatoes?, wait. That was our old school lunch program.
Never mind...