Back at the Colorado mining camp while I was still in school my mother was a great cook. She knew how to cook and serve just about every Italian dish there was. As such I was pretty fussy about what I ate. Little did I know that this would soon change, you either ate what the Navy supplied or do without. It didn't take long before I devoured anything that was available, I needed the calories to keep going. It was a very active life, I was in better shape than I ever was and it felt good!
 
For sailors getting fed usually meant a surprise menu and heavy metal trays that our food was put on. I really should have appreciated the effort required by our mess cooks, keeping several thousand sailors fed is a major accomplishment. The steam line was open about twenty hours a day, there were times I burned so many calories I would hit the chow line as many as five times in a single day. My favorite food came out of a military green can, they looked somewhat like hamburgers but the consistency and color made it difficult to know for certain. I suspect that the sauce on top of the burger probably was some kind of fungus. If anyone did not want to eat their 'burger' I always wanted it. It didn't matter how much I ate, never gained a pound, that trend reversed itself when I hit my 40's when I inflated to 240 lbs. After my diet I managed to reduce that to 190lbs although it took me several years to do it. But that is still way above my weight while I was aboard the Hancock with a 30 inch waist.
 
Below on the mess decks for amusement we would watch the cockroaches that always were there waiting for a handout. Big ones, I noted that they were capable of moving a grape with ease. Fresh fruit was rare but we figured they needed some variety in their diets too. One of my shipmates captured a live cockroach for the spiderís dinner later on in the radar room. I forget who kept the spider but he was using an empty five gallon distilled water jug, the water was for the radar but now it was a suitable home for the pet spider. I noted that this little 8-legged killing machine was capable of putting down something ten times his size and it quickly wrapped the cockroach up with it's web. Guess it was saving it for tomorrows snack. It was just something to do, divert your attention away from those weeks at sea.

REPLY FROM OLD SENIOR CHIEF 1946: Like you, I hit the chow line as often as I could back then. By then - I think I was up to 165 pounds, but standing six foot one inch tall  I was still skinny as a rail. Everything came out of a box or a can back then but some of it was pretty good. I liked their staple dehydrated soup - the tomatoey one with the little noodles and bits of dehydrated veggies. I also liked the tomato based SOS they made for breakfast just about every morning, served over toast. It was made with something that resembled hamburger - a Sloppy Joe like concoction. I have tried to make it at home - can't seem to get it quite right. I am now convinced that my newer recipe is missing that special fungus sauce you mentioned in your story. The bake shop on the CVA-19 was fantastic and I liked just about everything they put out there. We used to get a big box of hot donuts and other fresh pastries early every morning for the Shipfitter Shop.  I had other favorites - in short, I could eat just about everything they put on the serving line but I learned that some cooks were better than others. The bacon also came in big tins - packed in brine water. Most of the cooks just threw it on the grill right out of the can - tasted way too salty. A little extra effort goes a long way. One cook always drained the brine as much as he could, then threw it in boiling water for a few minutes before it went on the grill. Tasted like momma used to make! I didn't care much for their Chop Suey - I think that is because I found a piece of someone's big toe nail in my Chop Suey one day.  I didn't make friends with any of the creepy crawly critters but a family of spiders took up residence in the corner of one of the High Capacity Fog Foam stations where I stood my watches. When I was especially bored, I would go over and watch them. 

REPLY FROM OLD SENIOR CHIEF 1946: Does anyone remember when we blew a large main steam pipe in one of the after boiler rooms? We had to isolate a big part of the ship until it cooled down so we could send people back in there to do repairs. The main galley, the bake shop and most of the main mess decks was included in the area isolated. For about four days, we lived on C rats and whatever they could pull out of some storerooms and reefers that did not have to be cooked (- not much).  They made up box lunches - not great food, but it kept us all going. It seems like they had another serving line with a small galley up  forward but it was mostly burgers and fries, maybe mid rats and such.  It was great when they got the main galley back on the line. I think it  was the 1964-65 cruise.