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Military "MRE" Meal

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I just had the opportunity to sample what our soldiers eat in the field (when away from camp). Thought it might interest you.

This "MRE" (Meal Ready to Eat) was marked "Beef Enchilada". It comes in a hefty tan plastic packet, containing (I hope I list it all):

Entree and Vegetable (refried beans), each in a foil pouch in a cardboard box.
Heating device (plastic pouch with heating cell on card, printed with instructions)
Condiments (in this case, picante sauce and cheese spread)
Drink mix pouch (lemon-lime powder)
Dessert (large cookie, white chocolate chip & raspberry, in packet)
Soda Crackers (generous portion in packet)
Spoon (olive drab plastic)
Accessory Packet (Taster's Choice, sugar, salt, matches, moist towelette, mint)
Bag to heat water for coffee

You slip the entree pouch into the heating bag and fill with water. A chemical reaction produces heat - in this case, vague warmth. After the recommended 15 minutes I plated the food and gave it a try, with mixed results.

Enchilada:- might have been edible if warmer. Sauce mysteriously sweet. Picante sauce pretty good and had a punch. Cheese spread might have helped if it had gotten hot (it wasn't mentioned whether the cheese was meant for the enchilada or the crackers).

Refried beans - not bad at all, nice flavor and texture, enough to satisfy.

Cookie - quite good for a packaged cookie.

Drink mix - I didn't try it, or the crackers.

All things considered, if the soldiers are better than me at getting some heat into the meal, they're getting fed better than my dad described old-time MRE's.

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  1. Thank you for giving us a view into the lives of our armed forces.

    1. The old time rations did not come with any method of heating them up..
      ya got an
      entree(loose use of the term) say a ham and lima beans
      a starch canned roll or crackes
      a tin of jam or peanut butter
      a dessert i.e. canned peaches
      a convenience pak three cigarettes,waterproof matches, powdered coffee
      or cocoa, packets of sugar, cream, and three squares
      of toilet paper
      To heat things up one would open a tin of peanut butter squirt a generous amount of bug juice(insect repellant) and light it off an use as a can of sterno
      Best condiment was the hot sauce you got in the mail from back in the "world"

      9 Replies
      1. re: Hue

        I hear the hot sauce is still a hot commodity. From what I've read, some of the MREs come with small bottles of tabasco sauce. Those who like tabasco for various reasons soon figure out who doesn't - those that don't become very popular and welcomed around meal time...

        1. re: bulavinaka

          When I was in the Marines the crackers, cheese, and drink mix were what was really coveted. Some didn't like the tabasco, but everyone liked the crackers and cheese. They came with every meal so they were easy to stow away for later which is why they were so popular.

          Never once did I ever really look forward to eating them but they did the job.

          1. re: Rocky Road

            I was an FMF Corpsman assigned to 1st FSSG in Dessert Storm/Shield. We were in the boonies and had MRE's almost exclusively, at least twice daily.

            My favorites were corned beef hash and ham steak. Most everything else was first generation MRE and were pretty bad. The oatmeal bar mad a great substitute for a pumice stone however.

            We hooked up with some British medics and traded tham for their "Compo-rations". They were still lugging cans of steak and kidney pie, chocolates, etc. that were a hell of a lot more flavorful than the old school MRE's. The hated the weight and wanted ours, I hated the taste of ours and coveted their canned foods. Worked out well.

            Semper fi devil dog...

            1. re: bkhuna

              Corpsman w/ 1st Marines, Viet Nam, 67/68. First gen. MREs were better than c-rats. Made a one way trade w/ Victor Charlie when surprised and left big pot of hot Pho. None since has tasted so good. Keep Spam in the can, not in the man.
              Semper Fi Corpsmen!

              1. re: bkhuna

                Infantryman Kilo Co 3/3. I remember the oatmeal bar too. I didn't like that at all. Yeah it's funny how the food looks brighter on the other side! I'm in the same era as you and no one has mentioned the charms! Hard candy in the field. That was the bomb. That and the crackers and cheese.

                I think my favorite was the beef stew or chicken ala king. I always had to have the tabasco in mine but their were plenty who would give that up for the drink mix. I liked regular water so it was an easy trade.

                Semper Fi bkhuna, passadumkeg, and all the other Marines on Chowhound.

                1. re: Rocky Road

                  Oooh-rah and Semper Fi.

                  I'm a former Marine but never ate c-rats except in boot (E-Beach anyone?). MREs were way after my time. My son is full time AGR (Army Guard Reserve) and finds them "interesting". The little bottles of Tabasco save most meals. I'll have to ask if he has any favs.

                  1. re: Dee S

                    If you only ate c-rats in happy time, and MREs were after you, what did you eat, Air Force mess chow? (Just joken'!)

            2. re: bulavinaka

              Yes, some of the MREs docome w/VERY tiny bottles of tabasco.

            3. re: Hue

              We used to siphon a little 'copter fuel to heat our instant coffee when possible in Nam. So much cold c-rats, so little time. I've been reading about all the improvements in MREs. God bless 'em.
              Hue, 2/26/68 and back to the world. No perfume in the Perfume River.
              Canned peaches & pears sooo good when sooo thirsty.

            4. My husband is in Iraq, and has not yet had the misfortune of having to eat the MRE on this deployment. The food is supplied by contract workers, and is pretty decent. However, he told me the new ones are better than that last set of them, and some really are better than others. I think he said beef enchilada was not one of his favorites.

              1. The vegetarian MREs were surprisingly edible, especially with the addition of the aforementioned Tabasco.

                3 Replies
                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  What sort of entrees did the feature? I was wondering how many different types of entrees they offered, or if they got repetitive pretty quickly.

                  1. re: iluvtennis

                    You know, I can't remember exactly how many varieties there were, as we didn't have to eat them all that often. We always used to say they tasted better because they hadn't been sitting around since the 70s. ;)

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      Gee, in Nam we thought the the c-rats were so delish because they had time to age since the Korean War.

                2. Past, current, and next years MRE "Menu"

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MRE

                  1. I ate them (after Hurricane Katrina) when the National Guard air dropped them into coastal Mississippi. I was astounded how good some of them were. Of course, the fat content and caloric values were off the charts but these meals are intended to keep fighting soldiers fueled, not for weight watchers!

                    1. Years ago, my kids were the "beneficiaries" of leftover MREs whenever our Guard neighbor came back from drill weekend. They loved them, and loved him for bringing them home. "MOM! Can we have our MREs for dinner tonight?"

                      Later, I found out why he came home with so many. Although every Guardsman was issued MREs for the weekend, the officers (of which he was one) rarely ate at the camp, but either went into town or sent someone after restaurant food. So, of course, he had enough left over to share with my (adoring) kids. They still talk about them (and him) fondly.

                      1. Not just for the military...Wildland Firefighters get their share of the MREs. The mini-Tabasco bottles help the usually bland flavor. They provide about 1200 calories if you consume everything. A little trash intensive, and the heater sleeve is a step away from being hazmat. Last summer, we had a problem with the potable water at a fire camp which shut down the caterer, so for 3 days until we could get a health clearance, it was MREs 3x a day.....

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: NVJims

                          I truely believe the crap I Had to eat 3X a day for months in Nam turned me into the Chowhound I am today.
                          Dinty Moore
                          Shit on the floor
                          Gimme real food!

                        2. My husband has been deployed four times. His first deployment to Baghdad was the worst in terms of food because they'd just gotten over there and relied almost solely on MRE's. He said he survived on little plastic packets of PB&J that were available.

                          The last three weren't quite as bad, but he swears the industrial size MRE's, the ones they dump into large heating trays to feed lots of people, are WAY inferior to the individual ones.

                          He also went to Africa to help establish a base there and again MRE's were on order. Fortunately in Africa there were supplies constantly coming in, and with each arrival generally came a treat, donuts, beer, even ice cream so he generally passed on MRE's in favor of the treats, and again, PB&J.

                          It surprised me to hear him say this, he generally quite happily eats anything, but he said he just got bored quickly because all the meals, textures, flavors were so similar and bland. We do have a few on hand in our hurricane kit, and hopefully, he won't be in a situation again where he has to rely on them.

                          Arika
                          http://rawforamonth.blogspot.com

                          1. I'm not a service person.

                            But these MRE's fascinate me. I've seen a few for sale in our local army surplus store.

                            Someday, I will purchase one of these. Some bright and beautiful day...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Metalee

                              Enjoy the salt and fat and don't forget the heat tablets.