Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Meal, Ready-to-Eat
Waitaminute...this isn't even frozen!
Waitaminute...this isn't even frozen!

So, I've opened the Cooler of Mystery™ today in the total absence of my captor and found something different. A plastic pouch filled with several other packets and boxes. It's a Meal, Ready-to-Eat or MRE. Wait. Hold the fuck up. This is Horrors of the Ice Box here. We do frozen dinners. This is not frozen at all. It's....warm.

I gotta say, I'm disappointed. I thought when I was kidnapped that I would be subjected to frozen food that would test my resolve. This non-frozen food confuses and angers me. But, since I don't have any alternative, I might as well try it out and at least get a meal from it.

So, what is an MRE? Well, the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (which some call a misnomer), is the evolution of the combat ration and replaced the Meal, Combat, Individual ration in the early 80s. The MCI was canned, so you can believe that the move to lightweight cardboard and plastic was welcomed with open arms. The change meant that the new rations weighed about 500g when the old ones weighed about 1200g per meal.

If you've read some previous Horrors of the Ice Box articles, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of food science, but rations are really what I find the most interesting of all. Now what I've been given here appears to be an American made package meant for civilian use. The military ones would contain tabasco sauce and matches which I could use to make a hasty escape.

Now my own beloved Canadian government also has a version of these that they provide to the Canadian armed forces, known as the Individual Meal Pack (or IMP). The two are quite different, with the IMP containing some creature comforts like Lifesavers candy, Ritz crackers and snack cakes. I haven't been able to get my hands on an IMP, but once I get out of here, I think I'll have to try some more.

Holy stomach distension Batman!
Holy stomach distension Batman!

There's a lot of fucking stuff in this MRE. We've got:

  • Penne with Vegetable Sausage Crumbles in Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • Mexican Rice
  • Lemon Lime Flavored Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder
  • Wheat Snack Bread
  • Grape Jelly
  • Caramel Apple Ranger Bar
  • Flameless Ration Heater
  • Accessory Bag

Holy shit, there's more!
Holy shit, there's more!

So, before I even get to the rest of it, there's even more to detail: the contents of the accessory bag, and boy is it ever a lot:

  • Heavy duty plastic spoon
  • Napkin
  • 2 packets of sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Instant Coffee
  • Non-Dairy Creamer
  • Moist Wipe

In case you're keeping track at home, that's 15 different pieces to this kit. This was made to be a ration for emergencies like a severe flood, extended power outage, ice storm or tornado (those are the four major problems in my area, feel free to substitute your local emergencies). In fact, this stuff is meant to last for years! I'm not kidding here. Everything, even the bread is meant to be stored for up to 3 years in a cool dry place (although this can be extended with proper storage measures).

Now take a look at the rules.

  • Rule #1:
    I must follow cooking procedures exactly as they're shown on the container. I will not deviate from those instructions in any way, and I must prepare food in the fastest manner presented to me.
  • Rule #2:
    I must consume everything that comes with the meal. No hiding of disgusting parts will be tolerated. (In the unlikely event of bones or other inedibles, allowances will be made).
  • Rule #3:
    To make sure my palate is completely free of obstructions, I may only be allowed either water or alcohol. Alcohol does not include fancy-pants fruity girly drinks.
  • Rule #4:
    All food will be graded by smell, taste and mouthfeel, with less offensive qualities receiving higher marks. At the end, each part is receives an average score. The full meal is graded by the average score of each component. Appearance of the food is not graded because, let's face it, they all look pretty bad.

I figure that it wouldn't be fair to circumvent the food itself, so I'll be leaving some of the accessory pack out of this review. I'll only be using the napkin, moist wipe and spoon. The rest of it, I'll store away and hope that I can keep hidden.

Laws of nature, meet your match.
Laws of nature, meet your match.

Now, one of the cooler things in the pack is the flameless ration heater. It is as it says. It's a green plastic pouch with some kind of packet inside that is supposed to heat your rations without the aid of fire. Nothing says "I'm superior over my environment" more than the ability to cook without fire. Remember kids: chemistry is cool.

The packages combine magnesium with iron. When water is added, a chemical reaction occurs that, besides looking pretty cool, can heat your food to the point where you have to cool it down by blowing on it.

The reason I'm bemoaning my fate in not getting an official American military-issued MRE is not really because of the matches but because I'd have most of the tools needed to make an improvised explosive device that I could use to get my way out of here. I won't outline the instructions here, but trust me, I would be able to escape with it. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of that kind of stuff, so I'll just use the ration heater to heat my rations.

"Rock or something"?  Real scientific.
"Rock or something"? Real scientific.

So, I have some water on hand to set off the reaction and I've taken the meal pouches out of their boxes, so I can start. I'm only missing one thing. I have to tilt the bag against a "rock or something". I'm really being serious here. The ration heater specifically states the words "rock or something". It's mind blowing to see that "something" part in there, and I'm really not sure where to go from there. It's just one of those phrases that blows the mind, like "International Goat Symposium".

So, I found a rock and set up my food to cook, but then found myself with about 12 minutes to kill. More than enough time to have a drink to get started with the review.

Beverage Powder Carbohydrate Electrolyte Lemon Lime Flavored

Not really any way to describe the name. It's certainly not marketable. In order to mix it, I have to take what water I have left, which is about 12 oz, and pour it in the pouch, then shake it for about half a minute. The result is...less than spectacular.

Mmm...florescent green!
Mmm...florescent green!

The stuff smells like a cheap Gatorade ripoff. The taste is almost non-existent, like it's 'hint of lemon-lime' or maybe 'not-quite-salt-water'. On the other hand, this stuff is extremely refreshing, but I guess that's what it's designed to do in the first place. The pouch itself is not the ideal container for this drink. A canteen or something would probably work better, but I have to work by the directions.

At the end of my drink, I got a nasty surprise. It turns out that Beverage Powder Carbohydrate Electrolyte Lemon Lime Flavored is not particularly soluble in cold water. At the bottom of the bag was a thick layer of sour-sweet sugar sludge that if actually in my drink, probably would have improved the taste significantly. Live and learn: next time, use warm water to mix Beverage Powder Carbohydrate Electrolyte Lemon Lime Flavored.

Smell: 6/10
Taste: 3/10
Mouthfeel: 10/10
Total Score: (6.3/10)

Wheat Snack Bread

Oh yeah, this looks tasty.
Oh yeah, this looks tasty.
I was really apprehensive about the bread that came with this kit. I realize that most things can be prepared in such a way that they'll last for pretty much ever, but bread is...well, bread. It's different than other foods. Bread should be soft and fluffy.

This stuff is definitely not soft and fluffy. It looks to be a special kind of 'bread' that's had each slice baked individually and actually looks more like a shaped pita than it's name would otherwise suggest. Now, the smell was what first hit me. It's sweet-smelling, not sickeningly so, but enough that it worries you.

I bit off a piece and wasn't surprised by what I experienced. The bread itself was sweet, which really isn't a good thing. Also, it was dry. Really fucking dry. So dry, I don't know how I'll be able to finish it. And because it's dry, it's also gummy, and I've run out of Beverage Powder Carbohydrate Electrolyte Lemon Lime Flavored to wash it down with. If I can't figure out something soon, I might not be able to finish this, and if I can't, I'll have broken Rule #2. Will this be the meal that finally breaks me?

Smell: 4/10
Taste: 5/10
Mouthfeel: 4/10
Total Score: (6.3/10)

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