Execution Hollow

A place for odd or rarely told stories about pre-WWI West Point & the Hudson Valley. 

Mess Hall Food, 1817

Mess Hall Food, 1817

What did cadets eat in the past? In January of 1817, the Academy solicited bids to supply food for the Refectory and included in the announcement a detailed menu for each day of the week. As you'll see below, the diet was a bit monotonous and focused on the midday meal as the primary source of calories. This was common in early America because of the difficulty of keeping cooking fires and ovens going. Hot food was ready by midday and then leftovers were more common for dinner and the following day's breakfast. 

The Refectory, or Mess Hall, was a stone building completed in 1815. It was a two-story stone building. There was a bake house in the rear. Cadets ate on both floors at the left end of the building. The other end had some rudimentary lodging space for visitors. Source: Boynton, colored by author. 

The Refectory, or Mess Hall, was a stone building completed in 1815. It was a two-story stone building. There was a bake house in the rear. Cadets ate on both floors at the left end of the building. The other end had some rudimentary lodging space for visitors. Source: Boynton, colored by author. 

Here's the breakdown of the Refectory (Mess Hall) menu in 1817:

Sunday:

Breakfast: Coffee with milk and sugar; fresh bread & butter; smoked beef or ham; cold meat. In season, radishes and cucumbers could be substituted for meat. 

Dinner: Fresh meat well-roasted (beef, pork, veal, or mutton); bread; two vegetables (one had to be potato). 

Supper: Good quality tea with milk and sugar; fresh bread and butter.

Monday:

Breakfast: Same as Sunday

Dinner: Boiled meat. Everything else as for Sunday. Twice a month the contractor could substitute bean soup. 

Supper: Same as Sunday.

Tuesday:  

Same as Sunday

Wednesday:

Same as Sunday but a pudding was added at the midday meal (presumably a dessert but unclear). 

Thursday:

Same as Wednesday but for dinner a "good meat soup and boiled rice" was expected.

Friday:

Same as Thursday but for dinner the menu was corned meat boiled with vegetables. Dried peas could be substituted for the vegetables. 

Saturday: 

Breakfast: Same as Friday.

Dinner: Fresh fish and potatoes, with "sauce proper for the same", or meat and pies when fish couldn't be obtained. 

Supper: Same as Friday but with pies! 

The contractor was allowed to substitute boiled rice for vegetables. 

 

Source: "Notice", The Evening Post (New York). January 10, 1817. 

A Cadet Casino Christmas, 1890

A Cadet Casino Christmas, 1890

Shooting at West Point, 1876

Shooting at West Point, 1876