Oddly Enough

Australia's troops aghast at Dutch food

Australian Special Forces soldiers take part in a training exercise in Afghanistan in a file photo. REUTERS/The Australian Defence Force/Handout

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia’s soldiers fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan are up in arms, over Dutch food.

A special team of Australian military cooks had been rushed to Afghanistan to produce “Aussie food” after scores of soldiers complained about the Dutch-run mess at Tirin Kot military base, in southern Uruzgan province, parliament was told Wednesday.

“I think the issue is that it’s not Aussie food, it’s European food. It’s true that people have been quite strong in their views about the European food,” Australia’s military commander Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told lawmakers at a special defense budget hearing.

Australia, a close U.S. ally and the largest non-NATO contributor in Afghanistan, agreed in April to boost troop numbers to around 1,550, including a combat group and special forces soldiers.

Most of the soldiers are fighting alongside Dutch forces leading coalition efforts in Uruzgan, although special forces commandos have their own Australian cook.

“I think it was an insult to them,” Senator David Johnston told Houston of the Dutch-supplied food, which many of the 800 Australian soldiers have complained lacks freshness and taste.

“The least they could expect when they are deployed for six months is that they can eat proper food,” Johnston said.

Houston said the Dutch-prepared food was generally nutritious, but was not as fresh as Australians were generally accustomed to in their diets.

“We listen to our people. Our people have indicated that they’d like some Aussie food,” Houston said.

Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani