Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 19, Beef Roast

In the last couple reviews, we’ve been exploring the problem of MRE under-consumption. According to research commissioned during and after the first Gulf War, the primary problems were:
  1. The food is shit
  2. Field conditions are not conducive to eating
  3. People are fucking stupid
Today, we’ll look at the second item on the list, in an essay that I like to call…

It Ain’t Easy to Eat Dinner When You’re Posted Downwind of a Latrine

People eat differently in different settings. That’s simple and obvious enough.

What’s not so simple is the complex interaction of factors that influence consumption. When Pentagon researchers broke these factors out into their individual components, they found that:
  • Sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption (i.e. an irregular sleep/wake schedule) decrease food consumption.
  • Troops often take fewer rations than they should, so they can fit other stuff in their pack. I'm guessing it's mostly porn.
  • Some people like the idea of losing weight on deployment, and intentionally under-eat.
  • People eat less when they have less time to eat. (Stunning finding. Your tax dollars at work, people.)
  • People like their food less when meal times are unpredictable, and may therefore eat less.
  • Context is important. Insulin production and gastric secretion increase in response to familiar food-related cues, such as the smell of cooking, the sight of a dining room table, or the inside of a restaurant. When these cues are missing, soldiers may be physiologically unprepared to eat a full meal.
  • People eat less when the food is harder to get at. This is true even when the inconvenience is trivial, such as when food is within arm's reach but not directly in front of you.
  • People consume more when eating socially than when eating alone.
  • People eat more when they’re well hydrated.
  • People eat less when they’re exposed to the elements.
The researchers formulated a plan that involved teaching officers and noncoms the art of providing a good eating environment. I’d like to think this involved Robert Irvine rolling into camp in the turret of a Humvee, screaming about the inartful d├ęcor in the mess tent, but it probably just meant imparting the importance of a good eating environment. That means regimented mealtimes; clean, covered eating areas; and tables and chairs, when possible.

Apart from officer and noncom education, the report’s recommendations pretty much amounted to, “See all that stuff that’s bad? Fix all that stuff that’s bad. And then things won’t be so bad anymore.” Genius.

Speaking of clumsy segues, Today’s MRE is Menu 19: Beef Roast with Vegetable

MRE Review: Menu 19, Beef Roast Overwrap

And here’s what you get:

MRE Review: Menu 19, Beef Roast Contents

Course 1
Beef Roast with Vegetables and Gravy
Diario Instant Coffee with non-dairy creamer
MRE Review: Menu 19, Beef Roast

So, uhhh, I am not holding out a lot of hope for this one. It frankly looks like dog vomit.

Then again, dogs eat their vomit, so obviously there must be some appeal there, right? So let’s dig in…

Holy crap, it’s really fucking good!

The beef is a big ugly slab, but it’s nicely seasoned, tasty, and very tender. It falls apart in your mouth, and every chew is this little burst of savory flavor. It's delicious. I'm not a huge fan of red meat, but I really like this.

Let's try some of the vegetables by themselves.

The potatoes are well seasoned, but their contribution to the dish is more about texture then taste. They’re nice and firm, a balance to the soft tenderness of the beef.

The other vegetables also hold up well, proving that it is possible to make tasty veggies in a retort pouch. There are mushrooms, tomatoes, and carrots in a thick, hearty sauce. I think there might be some string beans in there too, but they don’t make their presence known, apart from a few fleeting glimpses.

I finished the rest as it's meant to be eaten, in big chunks of mixed meat and veg, and it's fantastic. The ingredients are put together perfectly, and the seasoning is just right.

It goes to show you that first impressions are often wrong. It's like this guy I knew, and I thought it was love at first sight, but it turned out all he wanted to do was blow up my volcano fortress and kill all my henchmen.

Course 2
Chocolate Peanut Spread
MRE Review: Menu 19, crackers

Mmmmmmm. Peanut butter and crackers. And not just regular, but chocolate peanut butter!

Chocolate peanut butter is proof of a loving God. Of course, most of the world’s population will die in squalid poverty, having never tasted chocolate peanut butter even once in their lives. So I guess God only has about 750 million people worth of love in him.


Course 3
Pangea Almond Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Cocoa Beverage Powder
MRE Review: Menu 19, poppy seed pound cake

Pangea products have a 50/50 track record so far. Let’s see how this one holds up.

Woo! They’re two for three now, baby. This cake is fucking awesome.

It’s moist and delicious, and I would happily eat it anytime. Hell, I’m seriously thinking about ordering these pound cake pouches in bulk and stashing them at work for a break-time snack. The only thing holding me back is that they cost two bucks per cake on eBay.

The drink is less glamorous. It’s basically just powdered chocolate milk. It’s chalky but not gross—a passable beverage.

Course 4
Postcard Pears
MRE Review: Menu 19, postcard pears

The pears came in a retort pouch, and the pouch was tucked into a cardboard sleeve with a postcard printed on it. So, yeah. That's apparently a thing.

A little research reveals that, during the invasion of Iraq, many soldiers and marines found themselves without any paper to write letters home on. Well, without paper that didn't have porn on it, anyway. So they started cutting the front off their retort pouch boxes and writing on the back. Since postage is free for troops serving in overseas combat areas, they didn't even need a stamp.

The practice became so widespread that someone decided to add an actual post-card to the cardboard sleeves for fruit pouches. Do a Google Image search for "mre postcards" if you want to read some heartwarming letters home. Warning: be prepared to cry like the little bitch you are inside, is all I’m saying.

Anyway! The pears are good. They’re tiny little pear chunks in a heavy syrup. I usually prefer my canned pears in light syrup, and I prefer them to be pineapples, but this is nice too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to write to my grandma and tell her all about this fantastic gum.


If you enjoyed this article, why not read the others in the series?

Fresh Hardtack
3-Month-Old Hardtack
Menu 16, Pork Rib
Menu 22, Sloppy Joe
Menu 23, Pasta in Pesto
Menu 14, Ratatouille (Vegetarian)
Menu 15, Southwest Beef and Beans
Menu 8, Marinara Sauce with Meatballs
Menu 20, Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce 
Menu 13, Tortellini Vegetarian 
Menu 18, Chicken with Noodles
First Strike Ration Menu 2 (Part 1)
First Strike Ration Menu 2 (Part 2)

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