American Military Number 1 Menu Item for over 100 Years SOS Shit on a Shingle
With special culinary & historic thanks to my Iraq War battle buddy, Colonel Tim Kaminski, US Marines (Ret) of Arizona, who provided this recipe and background. As he said, this is what happens when US Soldiers pick an affectionate nickname for meat on bread.
The unofficial term—abbreviated as “S.O.S.”—became popular slang among American soldiers during World War II. It refers to “cream chipped beef on toast,” a dish that’s been featured in Army cookbooks for over 100 years.
Any creamed meat (shit) served on toast (shingle) could be referred to as S.O.S. The meal amassed many nicknames, including “Creamed Foreskins on Toast” and “Shit on a Raft,” depending upon the ingredients and division of soldiers eating it. But, despite a collection of unpalatable titles, creamed chipped beef is a relatively beloved wartime dish. Or at least not as hated as the name implies.
The first appearance of a Shit on a Shingle recipe may be in the 1910 Manual for Army Cooks, which listed it as “stewed, chipped beef.” It features 15 pounds of beef to feed 60 men. However, cream chipped beef has been a breakfast staple in the Northeastern United States since the turn of the 19th century. The reason for its success in both contexts is the same: Chipped beef has been dried, salted, pressed, and thinly sliced, making for a compact and shelf-stable snack that’s an ideal source of protein on long-haul journeys. In a plight much like that of American soldiers, European immigrants relied on the same economical, transportable, and filling meat.
Over time, cream chipped beef over toast spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic U.S.—particularly in Pennsylvania—where it remains a popular diner breakfast item. At one point, cream chipped beef was even offered nationally on IHOP and Cracker Barrel menus.
Though S.O.S was coined during World War II, the nickname extends far beyond the mess halls of the 1940s. In fact, the soldiers’ uncouth name choice has remained popular. Pennsylvania Dutch recipes insist on “Dutch frizzled beef,” and diners offer “cream chipped beef over toast.” But locals still call it Shit on a Shingle.
Servings 4 servings
Prep Time 10minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
3Tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch ground nutmeg
1/4tsp garlic powder
1/4tsp onion powder
1/2tsp coarse black pepper
3dashes Worcestershire sauce
12.5 oz jar chipped beef
Chop your chipped beef roughly and set it aside. If you are sensitive to salt, rinse the beef.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for a minute. Whisk in the milk gradually and season with ground nutmeg, ground onion powder, ground garlic powder, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, and a squirt of mustard. Cook until thick and season the white sauce with black pepper. Stir in the chipped beef and set the heat to low.
Meanwhile, toast your bread. Once toasted, top with the beef mixture and sprinkle with parsley.
As we say in the Marines: “Bon Appetite & Semper Fi” !!