Meal Packaging: Gamelle

12 Mar

For more than 130 years Swiss soldiers received a standard issue gamelle as part of their personal military kit. In 2004 this changed: soldiers had to return the gamelle after their service. Till then the military service “souvenir” was popular for use in camping, hiking, for Scouts and similar activities. Meanwhile it has given its name to an award for outstanding troop catering: the Gamelle d’or (Golden Gamelle).


These red and pastel gamelles with leather straps are, however, handbags! Designed by Walter Maurer of the Swissness-trend (think accessories made from Swiss army woollen blankets). Maurer came up with these in 2004, on the withdrawal of the gamelle from personal service, so to speak. The upcycled army canisters with cult potential have been recognised in international design circles here and here.


On the LHS you see a Gamelle Individuelle with a lid and chain. According to this reenactment organisation these date back to 1852 and normally had, on the inside of the pot itself, a small individual plate and handle to allow the French soldier to cook his own meal (most of the time these got lost in the trenches). In a collection of historical artefacts here you will find the original olivegreen gamelle with leather strap, marked 1944 (RHS). You may also see the likeness of the olivegreen gamelle with the German Henkelmann, the design of which is attributed to its military mess kit precursor.

50330_lrgUncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters sell military surplus, including the above 2-piece mess kit with heat-resistant handles and pouch. The online shop entry says of this product “Great for boy scouts, camping, backpacking or any outdoor adventure [yay, adventure!] when you may want a hot meal.”


There’s a touching story attached to the engraved mess kit above, which Paul Oriol tells in his blog entry here. Apparently this is his father’s gamelle from the Second World War. It was engraved by a fellow prisoner-of-war in Stalag VIIIC, near Sagen (Zagen), now in Poland, a neighbouring camp to the Stalag Luft III of The Great Escape fame. Paul describes his fascination with this personal history and how he eventually donated it to a museum dedicated to peace, the Mémorial de Caen in the Normandy, France. leather_mess_kit_3_kleinHere is another US army mess kit, with a leather holder:  includes 1 cooking pan and 1 divided pan for eating, stainless steel knife, spoon and fork. This one’s in the saddlebag section. More on outdoor kitchens-cuttlery-crockery on the survival-wiki site here. And in a cultural cross-over to our next food carrier this little pink item, exhorting you to take your organic fare to work. The French word gamelle translates to bowl, which is why you get an abundance of pet food bowls when googling images 😉



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