Since I am a connoisseur of things put in your mouth for subsistence, I decided try some unusual meals. I have a dear friend that has been deployed to sand ridden places multiple times (over ten) and told me about MRE’s. The Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as the MRE, is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States Military for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available.
Our soldier brought over some MRE’s for us to try and to say it was the most interesting meal of my life is an understatement. He started the meal by placing a traditional Afghan quilt as a tablecloth. He also made me a present of a Bunker Bracelet, a quilted parachute cord adornment made in the tedium amid combat. I respected that soldiers are making jewelry in between shots being fired at them. He also had Gary put on the Shemagh, the tradition cloth used to keep the dust off while in Afghanistan.
He had us try two different MRE’s. These prepackaged meals are dense with calories and sugar, as that is what is needed in a combat situation. The MRE’s have a 5-6 year shelf life, expect in the heat. He told us of the 130-degree heat that is a daily challenge. He said that they adjusted too the heat so much that when they were in an air-conditioned hanger, 90 degrees felt cold to them. With the laying out of the meal, the extreme conditions, I was awed with the sacrifices these men give to our country.
He produced a big knife, to open the contents and we laid them out. There was toilet paper, gum and instant coffee on top. A hot beverage bag came out next, which uses chemicals to warm up the coffee or tea. A bag marked peanut butter came next and I was instructed to knead it. We spread it on a dense cracker (that was like tack bread). The spoon was a treasure and he said most the soldiers save them for coffee later. The drink was a carbo-loaded electrolyte grape flavor you poured into a bottle of water.
The applesauce and the fruit flavored snack were the next bites, they were loaded with sugar and I asked him what his first impression of these meals was. “I was glad to have it when I needed it,” was his pragmatic answer.
The main dish is warmed up with a salt heater. You drop the food in a bag, add water and close it, then shake to activate the heat. The instruction said to lay it on a rock or other hard surface. The box of the food comes apart and makes a free postcard; in fact there was little waste in these MRE’s.
We shared the wheat bread and cheese spread; both were dense and full of the familiar sense of food at home. Each meal has over 1250 calories to help soldiers keep moving. The grape flavored drink reminded me of Kool-Aid when I was six. The coffee was Nescafe and came with sugar and creamer.
Our main meal was Spicy Penne Pasta and after 5 minutes in the Flameless ration heater or warmer, it was ready to eat. It had a faint familiarity of an Italian Grandma’s cooking and was hot, so a bonus. Our other main meal was Beef Brisket with biscuits and mashed potatoes. Each pack came with warm reminders of home, if not in taste, at least in name.
My hero told me that hot sauce and chocolate peanut butter packs are coveted by our soldiers. MRE’s are mostly used when soldiers are on assignment and away from the base; they serve a nutritional value to the brave men and woman risking their lives for our freedom.
I dare you all to try one and then not to lobby congress for better food for our troops. I am glad I tried the meals and delighted I am lucky enough to call this brave man my friend.