Except for the hospital, the largest building at the Central Branch is the dining hall. Two dining rooms, each 90 by 130 feet, occupy the upper and lower floors. The total dining space exceeds half an acre and 2,000 Veterans can be fed in one sitting. The waiters are so disciplined that only 20 minutes are required to clear the tables, and prepare them for the second 2,000 Veterans. Only physically qualified persons can be employed in the dining room and kitchen. We currently have 46 waiters and all are residents of the Home. After the first group of Veterans has left the Dining Hall, a bell is rung and the army of waiters dash in to remove the dishes, crumbs, and clean the tables. The second group of Veterans file in with heaps of clean plates and bowls which they slap down on the tables sounding like artillery. The meat is brought in on huge trays, and the coffee is served from large tin pots at the end of each table.
A large archway from the dining hall leads into the kitchen. Here you can see the range, 20 feet long, and vast copper caldrons for cooking soup and vegetables. Seven coffee boilers, each holding nearly 100 gallons of coffee, are filled and emptied twice a day throughout the year. We currently employ 43 cooks, 17 bakers, and 36 dishwashers, and all are Veterans of the Home. Three thousand pounds of bread are baked every day, beginning at midnight. It is kneaded in a steam-operated machine using 6 barrels of flour at a mixing. The machine is filled 3 times using a total of 18 barrels of flour for a one-day supply of bread.
Here are some verified figures of quantities of food used. The breakfast on Friday requires 7 barrels of mackerel, 54 bushels of potatoes, and 560 gallons of coffee. Our Easter breakfast required 1,200 dozen eggs. Forty sheep go in a potpie. One mess of hash requires 900 pounds of corned-beef and 30 bushels of potatoes. Twelve hundred pies are prepared for one day's dessert, requiring 3 tubs of butter for the upper crust and 3 tubs of lard for the lower. We use 12 barrels of apples for the filling. We bake 400 square feet of gingerbread twice a week. On Christmas Day, the Veterans were treated to 400 turkeys, 7 barrels of cranberry sauce, 1,200 mince-pies, and oysters, celery, and other delicacies.