Oops! Apparently I've accidentally deleted all of my images. I'll see about fixing that soon.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Guest Post: MREs

Hi everybody! My husband wrote a post for the blog that was supposed to post yesterday, but being thoroughly exhausted by the physical and emotional demands of the week (not to mention the 100F/38C+ temperatures), I didn't have the energy to get it all formatted and uploaded for him until now. Sorry! 

Anyhow, enjoy this brief respite from my own ramblings to hear from the one I love the most <3

. . .

This is Peculiarly Pink’s husband taking the reins for a day. I have a holiday from work for the Fourth of July and so I am trying my hand at the blog to give her a day off.

Unfortunately I am significantly less crafty. I paint a little, but not up to blog standards and I cook but not very well. Still, Independence Day and I thought it might be interesting to share with you something I was lucky to try this morning  and at least tangentially connected to the day’s theme of patriotism. A friend from work gave me a pair of MREs.


First I will note again, these were given to me and were his legitimately. You can get them at an army surplus store, but they are not intended for commercial sale normally. No law prohibits it, but it is discouraged. For that reason I thought that being able to see them might be interesting to the blogging audience. A warning to those who have looked at her gluten free food: this is not a GF post.

For those unfamiliar, a MRE is a field ration pack. The acronym stands for “Meal, Ready-to-Eat” and it is an individual serving. It’s intended for a soldier who is either in the field or at least undergoing exercises, so it’s not exactly the right stuff to be healthful for a guy like me. Even on my more active days, I don’t carry a large pack around much less run with it. I simply wouldn’t do well in completing some of the basic but difficult physical tasks that the kind of person these meals are made to serve should be able to do, and the meal is made with the idea that a soldier will need more salt, more nutrients, and simply more calories than I would. So while these really are good for the troops, no sane nutritionist would say that I should make a habit of this little experiment.

meal + helpful reading material

I ate the first meal a couple weeks ago, but I made a few notes and she took some pictures. When you open the packaging you can see there are a lot of individually wrapped items in each MRE. Some are the same form pack to pack. Some are quite different. All of them have this nifty heater in a green bag.

did this part out on the porch for safety etc.

In a lot of ways the heater is what makes the MRE so interesting. If I were to plan a meal, while on a day long hike for example, I would need to either plan a meal that could be eaten at room temperature or I’d need a plan for heating or cooling it. In this case, we have just that: we have a small portable heater. But I don’t want to have something that needs an external power source; power generation in the very best would mean more weight. It might also mean noise, smoke, or fuel costs. Plus the more parts something has, the more likely it is to have some kind of failure. 

enchilada with added hot sauce

This green pouch solves all of this. Put a very small amount of water – it was actually hard not to overfill – in the bottom of the pouch and a quiet chemical reaction begins. The package heats up quickly to the point where picking it up is uncomfortable and holding it directly would burn your skin. Still, I can image that in an artic location this would make for a great way to heat up your hands if you are careful and can keep from burning yourself once you are done cooking. And besides a little steam, there’s no smoke. The noise is little more than a hiss. And it does get things hot. Not enough to cook raw meat with, but more than enough to get your enchiladas warm.

mmmm beans

decided to eat the spaghetti on a plate

 As far as the entrees themselves, I only tried the beef enchiladas and the spaghetti meals. Each one has a few good elements and some things that make me feel bad for those who have to eat it. For the most part, though they really aren’t that bad. Even if I could I wouldn’t want them daily. Or even weekly really. But I can find things in the local grocery store that taste almost exactly the same and I have willingly eaten those, too.

The high note would be the focaccia bread in the spaghetti meal, which looked like a flat, tasteless, thick hunk of flour but actually tastes and has the general mouth feel of a decent focaccia! The refritos from the enchilada meal were ok, but the hot sauce makes them really good, considering they are just a step from being from a can.

On the other hand, the red soft-drink tasted slightly like the plastic that it came in and had a terrible grainy texture. I didn’t even open the “lemonade” from the other pack, just in case. The “spicy crackers” were clearly a flavored cheese-it that had gone stale.

crackers with cheese

cheese crackers

I was a little disappointed to learn that there is no such thing as a gluten free version. Sharing with my wife is impossible for this one. She simply cannot eat anything in the package. The cobbler? Wheat crust. Bread, crackers, and pasta? Wheat. Wheat in the enchiladas. It looked to me that the beans and the cheese sauces are thickened with starch and as far as I can tell that would be a modified wheat starch. It makes me wonder… gluten intolerance is often genetic; Peculiarly Pink’s family has a few people who know they have it and perhaps more that do not. I knew when I married her I had to be careful about food, and that it might be something any kids we have would also have. Not that I would demand any child of mine enlist as soon as they turn 18, but I’d like to think that I would support them if they did, instead of telling them that they can’t because of the food.

It seems silly. And yet, I also am aware of how much work is put into making sure that we overcome those kinds of issues. For example, while these meals were not, the Army already makes Halal MREs for people who keep kosher. They also make them for vegetarians. Perhaps, as the severity of the problem and the continuing steps being made in food science and medical science will mean that by the time it’s even a question, there will be an answer. 

And perhaps the issue will never arise. Instead, I’ll have a child who wants a completely different path. Perhaps instead, he or she will decide that being the scientist who makes the gluten free food sounds better. Or the person who continues to improve what is in the package. Or one of a thousand other people who will be needed so that we can continue to enjoy life and keep up with that “pursuit of happiness” thing.

Happy Independence Day to those from the United States, and a pleasant Wednesday afternoon to our friends who call elsewhere home.
. . .

Wow. I had no idea that was where he was going to take this, but it's just another reminder that I have the best husband ever.

I promise to get caught up on the blogging soon as I have much to share.

Happy nearly-the-end-of-the-week to you all!

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