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Friday, April 15, 2011

Three Lies in One


Delving into the archives after reading Doctrine Man's latest zoomie offering http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/photo.php?fbid=202763519756807&set=a.169913026375190.35223.110598432306650&type=1&theater

Many years ago, when the fictional character was a younger gal, she wrote a column for a Korean publication on the military, both ROK and US. Short of ideas and coming up to deadline, she decided to write about MREs. She mailed her military friends for personal experiences and treasures fondly a response from a zoomie Colonel: "MREs? The Air Force eats at the Officers' Club each night."

Anyway, here's the original, many years later (and thanks to the SEAL for the title):

Three Lies in One

They’re not meals, they’re not ready and they’re definitely not edible!

At least, that’s one school of thought regarding MREs –Meals, Ready-to-Eat.

The MRE is a far cry from the field rations fed to the military during America’s Civil War, and a lot more advanced than the C- and K-rations employed during World War II and the Vietnam conflict.

Basically, it is a self-contained combat ration, available in 24 menu varieties and consisting of a main meal and other components supposedly chosen to complement each other. It delivers an average of 1,250 kilocalories per pack and supplies 1/3 of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.

Self-contained means from go to whoa – the pack contains its own flameless heating system, mints, beverages, seasonings (including a tiny bottle of Tabasco), a moist towelette and even toilet paper.

It’s both convenient and efficient, I’m told, and, as with home cooking, can be improved upon with a little ingenuity and some TLC.

The longest that one of my correspondents has had to survive on solely MREs was a 47-day period.

“I can’t say I would want to do it again,” he wrote, “but it didn’t kill me and real food tasted that much better when I returned.”

In the interests of research, I convened a tasting panel to sample some components from a variety of options. Here’s what they thought:

Pretzel Sticks: the comments ranged from “very stale” through “simply disastrous” to “vile”. The shelf life for MREs is three years and longer if cold-stored – these tasted older than that.

Wheat Snack Bread, which we ate with Apple Jelly: The bread didn’t impress, with one reviewer stating bread and water at Parkhurst Prison (UK) would be better. The apple jelly was “nice, but it didn’t have much to work with.”

Chicken Breast Fillet with Rib Meat, Chunked and Formed, Breaded in Tomato Sauce with Cavatelli: this main got a “big thumbs up” and reminded the panel of supermarket-bought microwaveable meals.

“If you were served it in economy class on an airplane, you wouldn’t be surprised.”

Fudge Brownie: “It’s up there with the main meal as the best thing in the pack” (although, unfortunately, the chicken comes accompanied by pound cake).

Cocoa: “not bad”, “better than your average instant”.

Coffee: this was a bad letdown with the general consensus being “Shite!”

As for the accessory components, the reviewers were impressed; particularly by the Tabasco that I understand is a commonly traded item among soldiers in the field. We also liked the directions on the towelette packet – “Tear open packet, unfold towelette and use”

They really do think of everything!


My thanks to panel members Alastair, Candice, Jamie and Tom.

You owe me dinner sometime.

1 comment:

  1. You could certainly slurp down some of the MRE Entrees on the move. Might be a mess, but Chili with Beans, Sloppy Joe, etc. could definitely be eaten cold, out of the corner of the pack. Some of the Entrees are in bigger chunks that wouldn't be conducive to eating that way. The First Strike Rations are hard to come by -- they are purely military issue, and to my knowledge aren't readily commercially available. ration MREs meals ready-to-eat

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