The oldest Army joke goes like this: "I was a hero. I saved hundreds of lives." "How ?" "I shot the cook."

The abysmal chow served at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) was a long running joke in the movie and hit TV series.

When a friend sent me a copy of Jeff Maxwell's newly published book "Secrets Of The MASH Mess," I read it through in one evening. Maxwell is the actor who played Igor the Cook for nine seasons. It is hard to classify his book. Is it a cookbook with humorous anecdotes or a humor book full of witty recipes ?

Igor, or Maxwell, included several tongue-in-cheek comments from some of his old MASH buddies.

Alan Alda (Hawkeye): "Can't wait to try the recipes. There are several people I'm trying to kill."

David Ogden Stiers (Major Charles Winchester): "What a great potential diet plan. An entire cookbook filled with inedible results."

Jamie Farr (Klinger): "If an army travels on it's stomach, this is the cook and book we couldn't stomach."

Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter): "The lost recipes of Private Igor? Those recipes weren't lost, we tried to hide them."

Loretta Swit (Hot Lips): "I think it's dangerous. I think it is just the thing that could start another war."

Gary Burghoff (Radar): "Igor taught me why they call it a mess."

Despite the sophomoric pranks depicted on TV, there is more truth than fiction in those scripts. Anyone who served in Korea will verify that statement.Most of the surgeons who served were not Regular Army doctors, but draftees who had spent three weeks training in San Antonio, then shipped overseas. I once had to adjust the uniform of a medical officer. He had pinned his Captain's bars horizontally, not vertically. He was still a civilian, inside, but wearing an officer's uniform. But he saved dozens, perhaps hundreds, of lives.

These dedicated MASH doctors had spent their whole lives studying to become surgeons. Suddenly, they were tossed into the insanity of a shooting war with an unending flood of wounded soldiers to save. Booze and outrageous pranks were their way of coping with the tensions of meatball surgery, patching up shattered bodies so that the patient could be medevaced to a regular hospital in Japan.

The surgeon who wrote the book "MASH" had firsthand knowledge of his topic. Captain (Dr.) Richard Hornberger published his book in l968 under the pseudonym Richard Hooker. While still in his 20s, Dr. Hornberger served in Korea as a medical offcer in the 8055th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Dr. Hornberger, alias Richard Hooker, passed away in 1997 at the age of 73.

Major (Dr.) Sidney Freedman was a psychiatrist who appeared in several TV episodes. While Trapper John and Hawkeye labored to patch up broken bodies, Freedman counseled the mental cases.

When I read the recipe for Sidney Freedman's Nervous Breakdown Breakfast, I knew I had to try it. I love scrambled eggs. I enjoy lox, especially on a toasted bagel. I prefer English muffins to toast. But combining the three seemed weird. I was wrong. Sidney Freedman's Nervous Breakdown Breakfast is delicious. They can also be served for lunch. Add a soup and salad and they make a quick dinner.

INGREDIENTS:

6 eggs

6 tablespoons half and half

1/4 cup unsalted butter

4 ounces lox or smoked salmon, — chopped

2 English muffins, halved and toasted

Freshly ground pepper to taste.

PREPARATION: Whisk eggs and milk in bowl, add pepper. Set aside. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add eggs and cook, stirring well, then add lox. Cook until eggs are set but not dry. Spoon over English muffin halves and serve.