After the mess leader has composed the menu and transported the provisions, it's time to issue the rations to the various mess groups.
One of the mess leader's jobs while at an event is to divide the Company into smaller groups of 4 to 6 called mess groups. Many a mess leader has attempted to plan the composition of the mess groups before he arrives at an event -- experience has proven this generally to be a waste of effort.
Once the mess groups are assigned, the mess leader issues the rations. After each group has received their rations, they are essentially on their own to prepare their meals, although the mess leader is generally on hand to guide if necessary.
Once it comes to actual eating, there are a couple of options affected by the number of mess groups and individual desires:
1 - Mess groups may decide to make their meal a private affair for their mess only by preparing a couple of smaller dishes.
2- Two or more mess groups may wish to pool their talent and divide the work of preparing larger amounts of different dishes to share.
Usually, the latter takes place as there is a little less labour involved, a lot more variety and it can be more fun.
Cooking at an event means cooking over an open fire with limited tools. The company owns one reproduction tinned-iron kettle. It is very important that we take care of this kettle. Tinned-iron is no longer made and so our kettle is very special. ALWAYS clean the kettle with a very gentle non-abrasive scrub after use. ALWAYS dry it out. NEVER leave the kettle out in the rain. NEVER cook anything over the fire without water in the kettle.
The following is a basic recipe for pease porridge (pea soup), an easy and popular soldiers' dish. This dish feeds about 6 hungry Lights. For more recipes and other useful tips, see the Elizabeth McAnulty 's "Mess Leaders' Guide" on the Company of Select Marksmen Website.
1 pound dried split peas
*Important* Split peas must be soaked in water for at least five hours prior to cooking. For best results, soak pease in a bucket the night before or after breakfast in the morning.
Place soaked peas in kettle and add enough water to generously cover. Place kettle over the fire and bring to a boil stirring often to avoid burning the bottom. Make sure the kettle is always monitored so that it NEVER boils dry.
While peas are boiling, mince onions, garlic, herbs greens and/or root vegetables to the kettle.
Cut bite-sized portions of meat and add to the kettle. Make sure the kettle is brought to a boil at least once after the meat has been added. You may want to lightly fry bacon before adding. Bones in the stew add flavour (particularly if you add them at the beginning while the pease are first cooking) - if you put them in, it's a nice idea to warn people to watch out for them.
Boil the mixture down to a thick soup -- add salt and peppercorns to taste. Add broken hard biscuit as a thickener.
Serve with fresh bread and butter.