Take a moment and put yourself in the shoes — excuse me, “boots” — of one of our country’s protectors.
You’ve been put on watch from one ungodly hour to another after a long day of patrol. You haven’t showered in days, every part of you is as sore as can be, and the only upside is the fact that you’re allowed to be temporarily sedentary for a change. After your buddy relieves you, it’s finally time for some grub. However, you can’t afford to attract attention from the enemy by starting any fires for a good ol’ fashioned American cookout — not that you’d have hot dogs, burger patties, or any grilling supplies whatsoever on hand anyway…
So, what do you do? You whip out an MRE.
The Meal Ready-to-Eat (MRE) is the standard military field ration used by the U.S. military to feed armed forces when proper cooking facilities are unavailable. The current MRE menu consists of 24 different scrumptious-sounding entrées, ranging from Chicken Chunks to Vegetarian Taco Pasta. I kid you not, that’s actually what they’re called.
Although each MRE comes with a full assortment of sides and desserts along with the entrée, the idea of eating out of a plastic bag warmed up by a chemical heater isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a rockin’ good time. Or, it could be the best meal you’ve ever had.
But what’s the point of speculation when you can try one for yourself?
Though technically unavailable for sale to civilians, I managed to snag one through alternative channels. Don’t worry, nothing illegal went down. As someone who claims to have a relatively sensitive palate, the tan industrial packaging did not exactly get my taste buds riled up at first glance.
Here’s a point-based breakdown of what I found inside:
Efficiency is the name of the game. Apparently, the entire meal is designed to be able to be eaten with a spoon (Shout out to SpoonU!) as I found only one utensil in the entire package along with a moist towelette and napkin to keep your schnoz in check. So, that means only finger foods throughout and bite-sized bits in the entrée. I’m intrigued. 8 out of 10 for ingenuity with bonus points for minimalism.
Okay, you can’t call that a “tortilla.” You just can’t. It’s an inaccurate description that’s downright immoral. Tortillas are supposed to warm, soft, and kept as far away as possible from anything called “Cheese Spread with Jalapeños.” Also, kippering is for fish, not beef. C’mon now.
But, you know what? The Chocolate Banana Nut Muffin Top was not half bad. The texture was about right for a muffin and the flavor was reminiscent of banana with hints of nutty chocolate. It would’ve been nice if it were completely intact though. A solid 6 out of 10 for the sides.
Oooh, lemonade and a mocha cappuccino? Sounds good, right? Meh. Even Country Time and Folger’s would’ve beat out these sad imitations of the storied, American thirst quencher and its coffee-inspired partner in crime. A crime against my taste buds, that is. 5 out of 10 for these powdery impostors.
The big reveal. Note to self: when heating instructions contain the phrase “use caution,” use caution. After filling up to the line of the water-activated heater, the thing immediately started bubbling and getting alarmingly hot. After letting it cook for a hot minute (literally), I did my best to not scald my fingers, fished the entrée out and dug in. The beef’s consistency wasn’t quite right, and the sauce was a bit too salty, but overall? A palatable 7 out of 10.
Y’know what, the spiced apples were actually not too shabby. Cinnamon-y enough to offset their disturbingly soft texture. But, the gum on the other hand was a disaster. All I found were two, cinnamon-flavored pieces and only one fully intact piece at that. Yes, it was as depressing as it looks. A disappointed 5 out of 10 for sweets.
Though the end to my MRE experience certainly left much to be desired, I found myself more or less satiated. Sure, it wasn’t the best-tasting food I’ve ever had, and I probably wouldn’t last very long if I had to chow down on the stuff long-term. It was definitely on par, or dare I say, better than food served by other federal programs. And all conveniently in a self-contained package. My hat’s off to you, Department of Defense.
Final verdict: an edible 6.2 out of 10. Much respect to the men and women fighting who have to live off this sorry excuse for food. “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” indeed.