Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Field eats

An MRE (the acronym for “Meal Ready to Eat”) is the infamous field sustenance enjoyed by all branches of the Department of Defense. The standard MRE for the past decade or so has been a collection of complementary delicacies packaged individually in heavy brown foil. The entrée – be it beef macaroni or Thai chicken – came with a heating element that, when coupled with water, warmed the main course nicely. After ingenious Marines and soldiers learned to convert the heating elements into small explosive devices, the DoD reduced the capacity of the element until it barely warmed the entrée at all. The resultant lukewarm serving was so unappetizing that many an MRE recipient simply stopped trying to heat the meal’s entrée at all. And today I enjoyed, for the first time, a version of the “cold MRE,” packed as a “Meal Fully Prepared.”

Behold in the photos wrapped and boxed packages of sausage and shrimp jambalaya, pineapple, crackers, jam and an oatmeal cookie. To say that the jambalaya was mediocre would be the equivalent of proclaiming Cajun diction as American standard. The pineapple, crackers and jam were decent. The oatmeal cookie had decent flavor, but the texture and density of compressed particle board. A few standard condiments come with the meal, but this new iteration of the MRE has no Tabasco sauce (unlike its predecessor that features a tiny bottle of the Avery Island concoction in every meal).

The standard MRE contains enough caloric support to maintain a mobile infantryman for a day. The packaged burgers, burritos, potato salads, beans, fruit salads and puddings are packed with fat and carbohydrates and usually a full meal provides up to 5000 calories. The meal was designed so that a person on the move could eat individual portions of the MRE throughout the day, and the plastic and paper packaging of the MRE, that altogether is about the size of a Kleenex box, makes it rugged and mobile.

My experience with MREs in the past is that medical field operations are usually sedentary activities, and that those days called more for observance, evaluation and downright loafing rather than physical exertion; and that the ingestion of 2-3 MREs per day (you usually got handed one for every meal) lead to considerable abdominal sag discovered only after the exercise was complete and I moved to rejoin civilized society by taking off my gun belts and flak jacket and overcoat and found that they were working together to compress and camouflage a burgeoning torso. Although not exactly Nutrisystem, the meal I tolerated today had a much more reasonable caloric load.


shrzane said...

at first I thought the cracker shot was a inventive use of ingredients for some "field s'mores"! But does that leaf and dirt debris add to your daily caloric/fiber intake? oh my it's literally "field eats"! BTW, in case you need more fuel this Afghani entrepreneur can possibly help you out! http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=businesses&action=about&id=37470

you and Carolyn are probably enjoying similar "power" experiences right about now!
xsz & was

jbryant said...

Great site, but I have to take you to task for one thing. It's an off-stated misconception that the MRE contains 5000 calories, if you read the box you will see that each complete MRE has 1100-1300. Anyway keep up the good work.