As promised, this week I am trying an M.R.E. (AKA Meals Ready to Eat...AKA Field Food...AKA I was eating way better than Neal for the entire month of June). I was under the absurd impression that just add water meant that it was all dehydrated and that after adding water, the meal would expand to its typical size...sort of like those dinosaur sponges you used to win at the county fair. Not so. And, for the first time, this is actually much more fascinating.
Today's lunch: Spicy Penne Pasta with peanut butter, crackers, lemon-lime "Gatorade" and almond poppyseed spongecake. Mmm!!
This is everything laid out. Everything in brown is food, the green package is the "oven", and the clear baggie contains apple cider mix, a fresh moist towelette, salt, pepper, toilet paper (for those who have to go right after they eat), and a pack of matches (for those who have to go explosively right after they eat).
The first step is to take the main course, which is spicy penne pasta today, and stick it in the heating packet. The white pouch at the bottom looks a lot like a ThermaCare Heat Wrap, but heats water instead of flesh.
In the field, I would have a canteen with water for preparing the meal. On the floor of my office, I have a plastic bottle of water. After doing this entire experiment, we realized it would have been much more realistic if we'd found a bush or something to squat by.
The next part all happens very fast. As soon as you pour the water in, the chemical reaction begins and you have about -4.5 seconds to roll the end of the cooking pouch and stuff it in the original box that the main course came in. Then you shove it against something solid because the pouch will begin to expand as the steam is released. There is also steam coming out the other end. My fingers didn't stay there very long. The entire heating process takes about 10 minutes.
While my penne cooked, Neal suggested I fix an appetizer of peanut butter and crackers. Really, all I'm missing at this point is the white linen tablecloth.
All that peanut butter clinging to the roof of my mouth sent me searching for my powdered drink mix. Lemon-lime...one of my least favorite flavors but hey, I'm down in the bunker, watchin' for insurgents and shooting everything that moves. Lemon-lime is the least of my problems. One of my more pressing problems is the colostomy bag they give you to drink from. Seriously, the Army can up-armor humvees but can't create a collapsible cup. Whassup with that?
Again, imagine my UK blue patio cup is actually a metal canteen with a camouflage cover. Thankyouvermuch.
And, apparently, I'm supposed to be using my field knife to open all of these packets, but craft scissors seem to be working just fine for me. Does that NOT look like the catheter bag of a very dehydrated patient??
And there I go drinking it...because GI Jane ain't got nuttin on me. Also...there is still peanut butter stuck in the roof of my mouth.
Oh! Lunch is ready! And a bonus freebie facial.
It looks exactly like Chef Boyardee...and actually, it tastes exactly like Chef Boyardee...if Chef Boyardee started adding red pepper chili flakes to their food, that is.
Neal says that the dried fruit is for a mid-afternoon snack. I don't personally eat cranberries, unless they are liquified and mixed with vodka...but I can see how these would be a lovely 4PM pick-me-up.
Dessert is almond poppyseed spongecake and it was not that bad. A little dry, maybe...but there's always the I.V. bag full of green juice to wash it down.
What's left over...the apple cider, moist towelette, toilet paper, salt, pepper, matches, and gum (which, according to Neal, is used for cleaning your teeth. In the 4 years we've been married, I can count the number of times I've seen Neal chew gum on two fingers...but maybe it's different in the field).
When the meal is over, you put everything back in the bag and pack it back to camp. Neal says you do this to keep the enemy from knowing how many soldiers there are traveling together and to keep them from knowing how well you're eating. If you're eating palmetto bugs and drinking your own urine, you may have less to live for than if you're dining on penne pasta and spongecake.
I have to say that it's been almost 3 hours since lunch and I'm still not the least bit hungry. Maybe all of my meals should be 1000 calories each.