Guest Author - Ray Hanisco
There does not seem to be a single generation of military service men and women that has found the Field Rations supplied to them as palatable. It is no different with the current military field rations supplied to our soldiers. The military has named the current field rations as MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat), but the soldiers in the field use names like: Meals Rejected by the Enemy, Meals Rarely Edible, Materials Resembling Edibles, and Meals Requiring Enemas, among others. Veterans of previous wars would consider the current menu of 24 entrées as food fit for a king. Is it, or is it the same old stuff, different day?
The military has had the same problems regarding soldiers for many years. How does one keep the strength of our fighting force and their body weight at peak levels for maximum efficiency? It has been determined that our fighting men and women need a daily caloric intake of approximately 3,400 to 4,000 per day. For decades, the military had made a single serving field rations with 1,200 calories per serving. Based on three meals per day, that should work perfectly, but it does not. The problem is our soldiers do not finish the complete meal, and/or their schedules, only allows for one or two meals a day. By making the meals more tasty and offering a wider variety, the military feels they can increase the caloric intake of out fighting forces.
The MRE entrées offered to our troops currently are: chili with beans, chicken fajita, chicken with noodles, pork sausage with gravy, Mediterranean chicken, beef taco filling, beef brisket, meatballs with marinara sauce, beef stew, chili and macaroni, vegetable lasagna, spicy penne pasta, cheese tortellini, ratatouille, Mexican style chicken stew, pork rib, maple sausage, beef ravioli, jalapeno pepperjack beef patty, spaghetti with meat sauce, lemon pepper tuna, Asian beef strips, chicken pesto pasta, and Southwest beef and black beans. Personally, it beats the heck out of the C-rations (MCIs) of the Vietnam War or Korean War, which were better than those of the World War II era which were better that the Iron Rations of World War I.
The readers should be assured that no one is saying our soldiers are being fed top notch food. In 2007, the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper invited three gourmet chefs to taste test 18 different MREs and score them from 1 to 10. The highest average score was a 5.7 and the lowest average score was a 1.3. There has been a number of other taste tests completed by other groups, each from a different prospective. The overwhelming majority agree that the chicken fajita MRE is not only an affront to Mexican cuisine, but is an insult to chickens.
One would think, with all the televisions shows featuring culinary competitions, the military would ask one of them to have a contest designing a meal or two fitting the specifications required for MREs. Think of it, a series of low cost, high calorie, high sodium, vitamin packed, nutritious meals, with a shelf life of three years, designed by top chefs in the United States. If this would not create a challenge with parameters in which the best chefs could compete, one would have to wonder; what would?