The Culinary Arts in Bosnia

By: Peter Sessum

Fajita night on Mt Vis with a very young Sessum.

So there I was, in Bosnia, no shit. I was part of the second rotation into Bosnia to enforce the Dayton Peace Accord. Things in country were still a little hairy. We were on a little hilltop about 20 kilometers from Tuzla with about 50 people. Only a handful of us were grunts.

A few times we had to react to a sensor going off or flares popping in the wire but nothing serious. There had been reports of people sneaking on the camp to steal food and fuel, but that didn’t happen once we got there.

Overall the food was decent, but after a while you wanted something different. Being such a small camp, the chow hall hours were fixed and if your missed dinner, you had to take matters into your own hands. With guard shifts 24 hours a day, sleep schedules might conflict with meal times.

We had limited resources, but problem solving made the time go by. My mother sent me an air popper and popcorn kernels. Unfortunately, the voltage was all wrong. Even the transformers got it 10 volt shy of what we needed. All it would do was swirl hot air. Great for drying out boots, but not so good for popping popcorn.

We had a big box of aluminum foil that someone had “liberated” from the chow hall. First we added some butter and made makeshift jiffy pop bubbles for cooking it over the kerosene heaters. Then we started taking the tin cookie containers people sent from home, poking holes in the top and using that. We went through a two pound bag of popcorn pretty quickly.

Sometimes we would raid the chow hall for ingredients to see what we could find. Personally I liked fajita night. We would slice up steak, heat up tortillas and throw on some cheese. I know that a kerosene heater covered in foil does not make the idea cooking surface, but we had to improvise.

On a side note: My mother does not like the story of the popcorn popper. She felt bad that she sent something we couldn’t use. I thought it was great because trying to figure out how to make all the popcorn helped keep us sane. And when you are trapped in a tent with seven other people without dividers for five months, you really have to work to keep the crazy away.

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