A Culinary Gift

The other day, Margaret was in North Carolina and Pippa was at a choir supper, so I faced the prospect of feeding myself. That’s usually OK with me; though others turn up their noses at the makeshift dinners I patch together, I really don’t mind eating my way through several plastic bags of leftovers, making a sandwich out of stuff I’m not sure when we ate the first time, finishing off with some chips and cheese, or instant soup, or some other makeshift. But the other night, I had no need to resort to such frugal extremes: in fact, on top of the refrigerator rested a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, courtesy of my friend the Air Force Captain. (He assured me that he bought it fair and square, this is not the beginning of some devastating scandal that’ll cost him his rank and bring down the administration in disgrace. We can always hope, though. About the administration, not him.)

Vegetarian Meal, Ready-to-Eat

I was surprised at how much the main MRE sack contained. When you spread out the entree, side dishes, condiments, serving items, and the self-cooking over substitute, the whole thing covered most of the countertop.




The first step was to prepare the main course, a veggie burger in barbeque sauce.

Burger In A Box

This involved sliding the burger envelope into a plastic bag that has a chemical water-activated quick-heating element in it.


Evidently An MRE Heater

First, you tear the heating bag open:

Open The Heating Bag

and slide the foil-wrapped burger into the heating bag

Hide The Burger

Pour water into the bag, such that the water level reaches between the two line on the bag. Do not overfill!

Not Overfilled!

(I was very proud to have nailed the water level part of the recipe.) Then let the chemical pouch slide down into the water and fold the top of the heating bag over. Slide them together into the box from which you extracted them, for a minute or two. Then pull ’em out and let them cook on their own. Note: be sure to leave the heating bag on a slight incline, or the water will leak out and Bad Things Will Happen. (You don’t want to ask.)

Heater Thingy Part One

The Burger Starts Heating

That’s really all there is to the cooking side of the endeavor. The rest comprises extracting ingredients from storage bags. for instance, there’s the condiment bag:

Bag o' Condiments

Contents of Condiment Package

Time to make the Carbohydrate Electrolyte Powdered Beverage. (Doesn’t it just set your mouth a-watering to hear me say that?) Just tear open the bag, pour in some water after it’s been fully purified and the residue has settled out; squeeze the top of the bag closed and shake it up.

Mixing the Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage

Cocktail For One

Now, to get the bun ready — or to be precise, the “Wheat Snack Bread.” In separate bags, the Armed Froces provide two thingummyjiggers that vaguely resembled slices of bread, or hamburgers buns, or soggy Ritz crackers.

Packaged Wheat Snack
There’s one —
Slice of Wheat Snack
There’s two, with the silicone keep-it-dry packets still pressed onto them. I removed the packets before I ate.Two Slices

Meanwhile, the smell from the heating bag was getting intensely acrid; no visible change in the cooking department, though.

After Fifteen Minutes

Time to slice open the main course:

Release the Barbeque

Well, that burger and sauce actually look pretty good

Voilà Burger

Notice that the potato sticks are much more accurately denominated “potato twigs” or “potato stick fragments,” but they were tasty enough.

Meal, Ready to Eat

And there’s my dinner. If you set aside the smell of the heating chemical, and the proportions of the potato sticks, and the texture of the Wheat Snack Slices, it all worked out pretty well. The instant Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage reminded me of Gatorade; the burger was tastier than many vegetarian items I’ve eaten; and best of all, there was no risk that someone would try to blow me to smithereens — whether insurgent or mercenary.

Mark adds:

It may come as a shock but some, myself included, actually liked the wheat bread. Down at training this summer (from whence came AKMA’s MRE as well) I had the non-vegetable burger, and found it rather tasty on the two slabs, er, slices of bread. Of course at the time all we had were MREs, so perhaps hunger helped. I didn’t even bother heating my burger, but that is an essential part of the MRE experience. You haven’t lived until you’ve heated food in a plastic pouch just by adding water! That thing gets HOT, doesn’t it?

Part of what comes from the heating process is hydrogen, by the way. Hope you weren’t toying with the matches while heading the veggie burger. 😉

Micah notes:

I have also enjoyed the cooking of a vegetarian MRE. (Not that it’s a
contest or anything, but my benefactor was a Major!) Anyhow, you forgot
to show the picture of how when you heat the food you are supposed to
lean it “against a rock or something.” Second-best military instruction
ever. (Only thing that beats it is the clear marking on the business end
of a claymore land-mine “FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY.”)