Split pea soup fed German soldiers in WWI, 'Battlefield 1', players can have same

“Battlefield 1” is the latest entry into the long-running franchise, which started back in 2002 with “Battlefield 1942.”

The first-person shooter will be based during World War I and inspired by historical events from that time. An alpha version of the game was released to select users and features a single battleground with British and German troops fighting over key locations.

The action takes place in an area called St. Quentin’s Scar and features four different classes to try out. Fighting is chaotic, destructive and fluid, with both sides attacking flag points scattered across the map.

St. Quentin Scar is meant to be part of the French countryside. A small village is quickly overrun by both forces, but there are telltale signs of how the French lived during the early 1900s.

As bad as it was for the civilians, troops on both sides had to make due with ever-changing supply lines, dwindling supplies and food that tried to make it feel like home but failed in the execution.

From an article entitled “German Rations 1870-1918,” battlefronts in the Pacific, Arctic, Asia, and Africa, as well as Europe called for a standardization of rations with some modifications for specific regions.

Erbswurst, which loosely translates into pea sausage, was developed prior to World War I and served as the basis for the rations in the beginning of the war. It is split pea soup compressed into tablet form and stored in foil or wax-paper lined sausage shaped rolls.

The erbswurst tablets would be cooked in a little bit of water to make a soup. German soldiers typically got two of the rolls, along with hard bread, bacon, coffee or tea, sugar, and salt for the standard daily rations.

Troops in the Pacific or Asia would get dried potatoes, where available, and those on the Eastern Front or in the Arctic would get chocolates. Hard candy and mints, especially ginger hard candy, called Ingwerbonbons, were also issued from time to time.

In today’s kitchens, split pea soup is considered Southern cuisine. But I can doctor up a recipe to be more reflective of the German style and still produce something wonderful for your troops, er, family.

Time to recruit some ingredients!

The front line

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 ½ medium white onions, chopped
  • ½ t celery seed
  • 1 t celery salt
  • 9 baby carrots, chopped
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 T dried parsley
  • 1 T dried thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound split peas, rinsed and drained
  • About 2 pounds of smoked ham hocks
  • 7 cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The battle plans

Heat up the oil and add the chopped bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery seed and celery salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the onions get soft.

Sprinkle in the flour and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Add the peas, ham hocks, and water. Then add the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring the entire mix to a boil over high heat.

Once the bubbles start, reduce the heat to as low as needed for a simmer. Cover and cook at that simmer for about an hour.

When the time is up, remove from the heat and take out the ham hocks to a cutting board. Let them cool before pulling off the meat and discarding the fat, skin, and bones.

Add the meat back to the soup, season with salt and pepper and ladle into waiting bowls.

German soldiers would often add a round biscuit, called hartkeks, to their soup. The hartkeks were slightly better than hard tack biscuits, because they didn’t need to be soaked in liquid before eating them.

Feel free to add your own favorite biscuits to your soup. And get ready to enjoy "Battlefield 1" when it comes out later this year.