Monday, June 20, 2011


If you’ve ever been camping, you know how painfully boring it is.  Once you’ve figured out how to start and maintain the fire, there really isn’t anything to do.  Well, you can go to sleep and listen to mice rub their hantavirus-covered butts over your toothbrushes.  But, really, not much else.

(Seriously, sing songs and tell spooky stories?  You can do that ANYWHERE.  It’s like people who sunbathe by the water, but never swim.)

I wasn’t too thrilled with eating a hot dog after it had been riddled with charred wood and dead bugs from the decayed twig we used as a skewer.  Boredom was overtaking me and I was thinking of going to bed three hours early (as were my kids), when I remembered the MREs.

MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat and is what the US gives soldiers in combat or when they can’t get to a McDonalds.  They’re designed to withstand being dropped out of an airplane, set on fire, or shot with a Howitzer.  MREs can last for years; one soldier said the worst part about eating one was looking at the label and seeing that it had been made in World War II.

I bought myself a twelve pack of MREs back in 2006 during the bird flu epidemic.  I stocked up on canned goods, dried food, and water.  I found a supplier of military-spec MREs (meaning, besides the Tabasco sauce, they were almost identical to the stuff the soldiers ate) and ordered a box.  Then I bought a bottle of Tabasco and watched the world end outside my steel fortress of a home.
And now I wait for society to rebuild.

OR DID I?
That thing is really hard to take down from the top shelf.
Anyway, years later, the box still sits on my shelf and waits for some disaster to make me open it.  I was always curious about what they were like, so I broke them out on our camping trip.  Here’s what I found:

The MRE comes in a durable plastic bag.  It’s easy to see why they last forever.  The bags are stronger than I am.
Also not easy to open a bag with one hand while taking a picture.
Inside was an array of stuff in bags and boxes.  They were all so pretty and friendly.  This must be what it’s like to buy an Apple computer!
Now, throw out your computer and buy a real one.
There was even entertainment!  One of the boxes had helpful survival and nutrition tips on the back.
For soldiers, this is just like the Twilight novels.
Another box had a postcard built into it.
Oh, how thoughtful.

No, wait, now how do I cut this thing out?

Two hours and sixteen cut fingers later...
I started with the Ranger Bar, which I can only assume was made of ground up Rangers.  It tasted like coconut.
Or, maybe it's Ranger poo...
Next, I had the lemon-lime powdered drink that tasted almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Gatorade.  The instructions say to use half a canteen cup or 18 ounces of water.  How should I know how much either of those are?!
Mmmm.  Greeeeeeen.
After that came the pears chopped up like applesauce.  I had the most trepidation about this one, after all the pears were five years old, but they tasted fine and only tried to crawl out of the baggie once.
I guess it's hard to screw up applesauce.  Unless, of course, you make the mistake of using PEARS!
I moved on to vegetable wafers and grape jelly.  The grape jelly tasted like sugar (which, according to the packaging, it was) and the vegetable wafers tasted like dried snot.  I figured out pretty quickly to put those two together.  Then I figured out how fast I could run to where I kept the Tums.
Even less appetizing than it looks.
Finally, I got to the main course.  These MREs came with “flameless ration heaters,” which is another way of saying “human death traps.”  The idea is that they heat your food without using fire, but I think they’re really some kind of food-based grenades.
Looks simple enough.
The instructions are designed to get you killed.  First, you tear off the top of the bag.  Second, you put your food next to the chemical pack.  Third, you put water in to activate the pack.  Fourth, you realize you were supposed to put a lot less water in than you should.  You pour some water out, while frantically reading the instructions, and then you realize you have too little water.  The MRE starts HISSING AND STEAMING at you and burns your fingers, so you throw the thing into the underbrush where it explodes, killing a bear.
Mmmm.  Beeeaaar.
Then you eat the bear.

The utensil pack comes with non-dairy creamer (which your wife will use as a bookmark without telling you), two packets of sugar, salt and pepper.  If you mix all those together in with the instant coffee, it ends up looking like this.
Foamy means its good for you!
If the flameless ration heater didn’t kill you, the coffee will.
Now you know why I didn't enlist.
It also comes with an incredibly heavy-duty spoon which the modern soldier can use to eat with and then cut themselves open to get the food out before it kills them.

As a final note, I just did some reading and found my MREs may have expired some years ago.  See the things I do to keep the both of my readers informed?

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