Breakfast Trivia

Trivia: What is “Shit on the Shingle”?

If you’ve served in the Navy or any military branch, you have most likely eaten “Shit on a Shingle,” which is creamed chipped beef on toast, better known as SOS. The nickname SOS was derived from the Navy.

The term derives from any brown or white creamed substance which Sailors call sh*t on top of toasts, known as shingles.

The exact origin of SOS is fuzzy.

According to some historians, there is no specific origin is known.

The dish, which consists of sliced dried beef mixed in a thick creamy gravy, appeared in military cookbooks at the start of the twentieth century.

Some cooking sources claim the dish came from the Army. The Army claimed the “Army favorite” has become “the most popular version of SOS.”

However, some Navy veterans disagree!

One of the original versions of chipped beef 1910 used beef stock, evaporated milk, and parsley added to flour, butter, and dried beef.

A creamier recipe using salty chipped beef was adopted during the Second World War.

This style was clearly evident in Navy cookbooks.

The 1944 Cook Book of the US Navy recipe for “Creamed Sliced Dried Beef” included a hefty amount of dried beef, approximately 7 pounds, added to a paste-like roux and boiled milk.

Variations of the recipe exist.

Navy cookbooks also used a similar recipe for minced beef on toast, which had a tomato-based sauce with ground beef and sautéed onions.

Some recipes for minced beef use a can of tomato juice for the sauce. Most Sailors on Navy ships referred to the dish with the nickname “Red S.O.S.”

The popularity of creamed chipped/sliced beef soon extended beyond the military.

Like the explosion of popularity in pizza after WWII, Sailors and servicemen craved the warm and filling dish when their time in the military ended.

Home recipes of creamed chipped beef published in the later twentieth century included SOS variations using other meats such as tuna and sausage in a white sauce.

Stouffer’s still makes a “classic” creamed chipped beef frozen meal to this day.

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7 thoughts on “Breakfast Trivia

  1. Carl Langston says:

    My father, a Army Food Service Warrant Officer during WWII and helped in the planning of meals for over a million men, told me that SOS was one of the most expensive meals the Army prepared and issued for soldiers

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  2. Craig Wilcox says:

    From time to time, I enjoy making SOS for myself and my furry family members. I do generally soak the salted beef to remove a portion of the salt.
    Long tradition in the family, Dad was an Academy grad who stuck from 1939-1962, then I was in 1964-68.
    Aboard Intrepid with VA-95, we would have SOS about every two weeks – always went back for seconds.
    Detest that crap they make using tomato juice or whatever it was. And forget using tuna or any other substitute.
    Now that you’ve got me thinking of it, guess what’s on my menu for tomorrow!

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  3. Scott says:

    When I served aboard the USS DeHaven DD-727 66-68 there was a distinction between the “red” and “white” sauce versions. We called the red sauce (more of a sloppy joe type) “shit on a shingle”. The white was known as “foreskins on toast”.

    Scott

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  4. Barry Woods says:

    I was born in 1946. My Dad had been an Aerographers Mate in the Navy during WWII. Growing up, my Mom served creamed chipped beef on toast for breakfast frequently. Not sure where she got the recipe or if it was something my Dad asked for after his time in the Navy. All I know is that when I was served SOS when I was in the Navy, it was like Mom’s home cooking to me.

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