(MIL) MEALS READY TO EAT

By Jug Varner

Anyone who has served in the military for any length of time could regale you with a variety of personal “been there, done that” gems about military chow. But since you've already experienced, heard, or read most of them, let's talk about something relatively new - the MRE.

It isn't your great-grandfather's hard tack, by any means, nor your grandfather's C-rations. Neither generation would believe how sophisticated (and expensive) field food service has become these days, and how nicely pampered are modern troops with MRE - Meals Ready To Eat.

In their wildest dreams, veterans of WW1 and WW2 could not have conceived of a field ration they could equate with “dining in”… such as three of the most recent MRE entrees of pot roast and vegetables, barbeque pork ribs, and vegetable manicotti. Oh yes, and don't forget the clam chowder, almond poppy seed pound cake, pumpkin pound cake, waffle sandwich cookies, M&Ms, and other such goodies thrown in for good measure.

Those three entrees are merely recent replacements for the less popular Jamaican pork chops, pasta with Alfredo sauce, and beef with mushrooms that didn't strike a happy note with the troops. There are currently 24 different entrees of this everyday fieldfare for the best-fed military people on the planet.

Perhaps pampered is not the right word. “Picky” might better fit today's GI consumers (as in the hot sauce caper I will tell you about below). But, as the old saying goes, “the military travels on its stomach,” and complaining about the food will never end. Food bitching is perhaps the oldest tradition in the services.

If there is a problem today, it might be: “the greater the variety - the harder to decide and to be pleased.” I don't care how good the food smells, looks, tastes nor how well it is served, eventually it becomes repetitively boring. Even Kings on the throne have the same problem (though not to the same degree). Maybe complaining is a psychological crutch to subconsciously take the mind off the tedious and dangerous side of military service.

Certainly it is impossible to please every palate with the same recipe. Americans are too ethnic in taste to agree on what tastes best (except for the ordinary salty, greasy, not-good-for-you fast food items they consume in tonnage volume).

The Defense Logistics Agency coordinates the design and distribution of the MRE as a complete, palatable and nutritional field meal, restricted primarily by its weight and size.

Because of its size, weight, and non-nutritional value, DLA officials decided to replace a bottle of hot sauce with something lighter and more nutritious.

Wrong decision!

The hue and cry from the field bordered on threat of a hunger strike by the troops if they didn't get their beloved hot sauce.

Result?

Nutrition went out the window and the sauce is now included in 15 of their 24 current menus. Does this describe picky, or what?