They are ordinary men in aprons worn over their uniforms, whose task is to feed the army. They take care of the operation of a giant stomach, a big hungry child with its moods – the Army. At first sight their function is not as significant as that of tank brigades, air force units or paratroopers. But it is on their field kitchens (there is a reason why they are nicknamed “goulash-canons“) that the success of “armed stomachs“ – the soldiers – depends on. Without its cooks the army loses its strength and thus, its sense. As long as right filling and emptying of stomachs is secured, so is secured the filling and emptying of military positions.
There are different kinds of cooks. Some cook by recipes and fulfill orders. Others keep experimenting and have their own opinions on both the kitchen and the world. Still others do a lousy job. And these are the ways people approach decisive moments in life.
And so we can say, with some exaggeration, that the theme of army cooks brings together the biggest hobbies of humankind: Leading wars and cooking.
Cooking itself and fighting have a lot in common – strategy planning, determining the volumes of ingredients, seasoning with spices. Preparation of food becomes a metaphor of battle. Preparing a menu follows the exact proceeding of invasion in the territory of the enemy. Who are the primary suppliers and how do they decide on the most necessary ingredients? Meat, beans, green peas, what is the influence directed on?
Cooks – soldiers, colleagues, enemies. How would they behave at a professional get-together? Would they fight against each other or would they trade recipes?
And what about the moral message of the pots? If all the cooks of the world refused to cook, would that be the end of wars?
This is how slowly the tragicomic truth of Grand History comes together. In between the declarations of politicians and generals, there rises the steam and smells to testify on something close and mundane. I would like to pay homage to these men in green aprons in a film that, I believe, can be at least a tasty eintopf.
— Peter Kerekes, filmmaker
This photo project has been evolving alongside a movie I worked on as both a cinematographer and photographer. During the creative process I realized that the visual language I need to use when making this very particular "cook" book which consists of personal portraits, recipes and stories, is very different from the one I applied when making the movie. The pictures themselves are going to be based on portraits of a variety of army cooks and various armies. And together with them we will watch the “Grand History“ from behind the stoves.
— Martin Kollar, photographer
FeatureArmy CooksDid you ever think about the men who have to feed hungry armies out on battlefields? What do they do when basic food and ingredients are hard to find? How can they inspire their men on to victory? Photographer Martin Kollar delivers an eye-opening photo-essay from Eastern Europe. Text by Peter...View Images
Did you ever think about the men who have to feed hungry armies out on battlefields? What do they do when basic food and ingredients are hard to find? How can they inspire their men on to victory? Photographer Martin Kollar delivers an eye-opening photo-essay from Eastern Europe. Text by Peter...View Images
Did you ever think about the men who have to feed hungry armies out on battlefields? What do they do when basic food and ingredients are hard to find? How can they inspire their men on to victory? Photographer Martin Kollar delivers an eye-opening photo-essay from Eastern Europe. Text by Peter Kerekes.
Army Cooks, Narofuminsk, 2007 © Martin Kollar
Army Cooks, Lepoglava, HR, 2007. Tomo owned a restaurant in Opatija, where anti-Tito protestors met. Tomo was arrested for harboring anti-government sentiment and sentenced to 20 years. In prison, he learned to cook meals using rotting groceries. Thanks to his mastery of the art of cooking, his friends from prison now occupy seats in the Croatian parliament. © Martin Kollar.
Army Cooks, Moscow, 2007 © Martin Kollar
Army Cooks, Narofuminsk, 2007. They loaded their trains with ammunition and food, and sent more troops to fight. The officers stole the canned food. The cook was left with instant oatmeal, sugar, and some lard. The older soldiers took the sugar. The privates stole the lard. Only some oatmeal was left, but that is not filling enough. © Martin Kollar.
Army Cooks, Sarajevo, 2007. In order to survive we had to mix whatever we had, good and bad, into one mass of food. Five tons of meat that has just started to go off can be safely mixed with 10 tons of fresh meat. That way, we were able to provide enough protein supply for the people there without poisoning them. The harmful bacteria got spread equally between everyone. © Martin Kollar.
Army Cooks, Croatia, 2007. If we happen to stray into a minefield while catching a calf, we keep a safe distance and follow in its footsteps until it returns to the paved street. In that moment we catch the calf, lead it into the stockade, kill it and cut it into pieces. © Martin Kollar.
Army Cooks, Beograd, 2007 © Martin Kollar
Army Cooks, Germany, 2007. When on a submarine, a cook has to be able to improvise and cook things up from what’s available, he cannot follow recipes. © Martin Kollar.
Army Cooks, Vienna, 2007 © Martin Kollar
Army Cooks, Beograd, 2007. During the day, they are cooks for the Serbian and Montenegran army. In the evenings, they cater for special occasions. © Martin Kollar.
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