Ugly food will be on the menu for a dinner commemorating a Christmas meal by Canadian soldiers during the Second World War.
The 2777 Seaforth Highlanders Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC) Langley, is using scrounged food to recreate the famous Ortona dinner this coming Sunday.
“However, unlike the officers who had to find and probably source the black market for supplies during that battle, we’re benefitting from the generosity of DeLorme Food Services and the hard work, initiative, and generous spirit of the Fraser Valley Permaculture Guild’s farm to food bank philosophy and gleaners,” explained Capt. Mark Iredale.
The guild is donating imperfect or ugly vegetables that would normally go into soup stock.
Cadets at the dinner will learn how in the midst of this fierce Second World War battle the Canadian officers, determined to provide a good Christmas meal for their men, scrounged table linens, china dishes, beer, wine, roast pork, applesauce, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, gravy, chocolate, oranges, nuts, and cigarettes.
Canadian troops advancing along Italy’s Adriatic coast were tasked with securing the village of Ortona, not realizing the town was considered an important German winter defence line held by Hitler’s elite paratroopers. It took the mostly young Canadians eight brutal days just to fight their way into Ortona where the battle became even more deadly.
The German paratroopers had skillfully ensured their infantrymen and snipers had cover in ruined buildings from heavy artillery and easily destroyed Canadian Sherman tanks, killing many of the Three Rivers Regiment. A basement loaded with explosives was remotely detonated, claiming the lives of all but one member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. To survive, Canadians began “mouseholing” from building to building using demolition charges to blast through interior walls so they weren’t fighting on the streets. They would then clear the enemy one room and one house at a time before repeating the process into the next house.
In the midst of this brutality, the Canadian soldiers ate their festive meal in shifts before going back into battle. An Anglican military padre named Major Roy Durnford prayed with the men and an organist played “Silent Night” while the men ate in shifts before returning to the battle. A CBC Radio journalist was present to record the event, which was reported back home. German soldiers later reported they could hear the Canadians singing the Christmas carol. Two days after Christmas the Germans withdrew and the Canadians had achieved their objective, but it cost the lives of hundreds of men.
“Part of the Army Cadet program is teaching cadets about Canadian military history,” said Iredale. “The Ortona Dinner teaches them so much about the harsh realities of war, in all its complexities, by bringing the history to life with bits of history, memories of soldiers read out throughout the meal, and an empty table set in memory of fallen comrades adjacent to the head table.”
The cadets will also have a chance to learn about the food guild which will have a display at the dinner.
“We really appreciate the support of local families, businesses, and groups like the Fraser Valley Permaculture Guild (FVPG) who support our cadet events like the Ortona dinner so that our fundraising dollars stretch for training for cadets. Using the ugly food from the guild is new this year, and really a great teaching moment for the cadets that relates to today as well as to Canada’s military history,” Iredale added.
The FVPG Farm to Food Bank initiative collected over 53,000 pounds of produce from local farms in 2015 that otherwise would have been thrown away or left to rot. That’s enough to feed 29,444 people a full day’s portion of fresh vegetables and fruit. The guild will have a display at the Ortona Dinner so that cadets and guests can find out how people are working to combat hunger and stop food waste.
The DeLorme family has a long established relationship with the Seaforth cadets in Surrey and Langley and Mrs. Dorothy DeLorme is fondly considered to be the mother of the local cadet corps. The DeLormes have donated the pork roasts for this year’s dinner, at which they are special guests, in memory of Mrs. DeLorme’s late husband John (“Jack”) DeLorme, who served with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and was one of the soldiers at Ortona during Christmas 1943.
Find out about cadets at www.2277rcacc.com.