So, after waiting for more than a decade and finally amassing enough courage to actually consume the MRE, I thought that it would be good to share my thoughts on the current rations the US Military provides their soldiers with:
The chicken fajita is one of the two bigger items in the ration and can either be consumed cold or hot. Heating it up with the included Flameless Ration Header can take anywhere between ten and fifteen minutes to finish, depending on how hot you want it. I went for a full fifteen minutes, to be on the safe side and was pleasantly surprised:
When you tear open the bag, you are greeted with a spicy smell (although I still had the smell of the chemicals that are used for the FRH in my nose) that invites you to sit down. Chances are that, when you are deployed, that you will be eating the food from inside the bag, which is possible, thanks to the included spoon, but since I had plates available, I spread it out.
Now, on first sight, it does not look like much, in fact, it bears resemblance to dog food and it certainly is no five-star-chef-prepared fajita, but then again, for something that has been stored inside a small, airtight bag, for about a year, it looks acceptable (not that you could actually care how your food looks like when you are being shot at 24/7).
The verdict? The Chicken Fajita tastes great, the peppers really burn on your tongue, the meat tastes like meat and the sauce is not too bad either. Ignoring looks for a second, this came out way better than expected.
Yellow and Wild rice pilaf:
The rice, too, can be consumed hot or cold and again, I opted for the heated version. Judging from the taste of it, I think I either undercooked or overcooked it (hard to decide), and that took away from the taste.
The Verdict? Hard to say really, the pieces that were cooked correctly tasted good, but had a weird texture to it, similar to biting on a rubber band. It was still edible, but nothing like the fajita. The rice would not act as a morale booster in its current form.
Yellow and Wild rice pilaf - UPDATE:
The second time I prepared the rice, I, supposedly, did something the right way and the rice looked and tasted like it should. No lumps, no rubbery flavor, just tasty rice.
The MRE includes two tortillas, to be used with the fajita. There is not really all that much I can say about them, other than that they tasted like any normal (commercially) available tortillas I have had. They are thick enough not to fall apart when you put the chicken fajita and sauce into them and thin enough not to feel like pita bread.
The Verdict? Tastes like tortillas should taste, nothing more, nothing less.
Spiced Cider (Instant Apple Flavor Drink Mix):
One of two beverages and the only cold one in the pack, the Spiced Cider introduces itself with a faint smell of apples (no oranges though) and spices. Preparation is easy: tear open the bag, mix it with 177 ml of water, stir (preferably with the included spoon) for half a minute and consume.
The verdict? Great tasting beverage, really no difference with other “commercially” available stuff. It may have some added ingredients though, because after drinking it (one or two gulps will suffice), I actually felt like I just had consumed at least sixteen ounces of water. Nonetheless, the drink is not unpleasant at all. And it is worth 60 calories, not too shabby either.
Nut Raisin Mix:
One bag contains about 56 grams of peanuts, raisins, walnuts, almond and some other stuff as well as a little bag with an oxygen absorber. The whole bag is good for 310 calories and needs no preparation at all, so you can just eat them on the go.
In fact, I am eating the nuts right now and you can tell that they are meant as part of a healthy diet by the fact that they do not give of fat when put on paper (for comparison: put a walnut on paper and wait a few minutes, you will most probably see some kind of liquid on the paper).
The verdict? The nuts (and raisins) tasted great, they are easy to eat and did not smell funny at all. The mix also does not contain any added salt which gets a big thumbs-up from me.
French Vanilla Flavored Cappuccino:
After finishing a (good) meal, most people usually tend to grab a coffee or tea, to aid the stomach during digestion (or so I hear) and the MRE does not disappoint in this case. The ration includes a bag of vanilla flavored cappuccino that is good for a small cup of (preferably: steaming hot) coffee.
The verdict? Now this is what I call a morale booster. Nothing better than a hot drink when you are freezing and longing for some sweet lovin’. Easy to prepare, easy to consume, a definite thumbs up.
Just a quick note on this one: every MRE contains two chewing gums with a peculiar flavor I cannot readily place. It might be cinnamon, which makes sense considering the other selection of spices, but in any case: it tastes okay. The pieces are smaller compared to my usual brand of chewing gum and that might be the reason why you get two. No mention of the amount of calories in there.
The Verdict? The chewing gum tastes great during the first ten minutes or so, but then, as it starts to dissolve in your mouth, it releases a strong spicy flavor that quickly gets unbearable up to the point where you need to consume a bit of water to wash your mouth.
Flameless Ration Heater:
When man discovered fire, many things became possible. When your enemy discovers your (camp) fire, many things for them become possible, too. As to not give away a soldier’s position, the MRE contains a flameless ration heater, which operates on a basic principle: mix two substances (in this case: magnesium and water) and you will get an exothermic reaction, which results in your meal being heated in approximately ten to fifteen minutes.
The verdict? The heater is insanely easy to operate, but emits a certain smell that tends to hang around. I had the good fortune of being able to cook this in a room with many (open) windows, and I would expect the smell not to be an issue outside.
The overall verdict:
For $1 to $5 a meal, these packages contain a whole lot of great, healthy and most importantly: tasty food. They are fairly easy to prepare, easy to split up and easy to store, which is a definite win in high-stress situations, which is, obviously, what these meals were prepared for.
The common consensus of the civilian population is that military rations suck and taste shitty, but after eating two of these meals, I can tell you that they are well worth trying.
The USPS guy just delivered two original Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) - military rations. Have been looking forward to this for years now.
I have indeed been looking forward to this for twelve long years now, ever since I first read a book written by Tom Clancy where military rations where mentioned.
Back in 1996, I did not have the same facilities as I do now and I just could not get my wish fulfilled and when I was in the US the last time, during the summer of 1999, I flat-out forgot to grab a pack of MREs.
This time around however, I got myself a set and they just arrived. So far, they are looking quite good. I wonder how the taste is…