My Lunch with MRE

The wife and I spent a few hours yesterday helping out at a Katrina relief center here in Atlanta. I had a cushy job in the men”s clothing area until a special need arose – an evacuee staying up the road at a Holiday Inn (with 18 family members) had a flat tire.

I vounteered to get the guy”s tire fixed. When he opened his trunk to find a jack, I noticed a few MRE packs amidst the blankets and other random things stuffed inside. I asked him if he”d been eating that Army food, and he said yeah. When I asked him how they tasted, he offered me up some MREs to take home.

Now, the last thing I want to do is take food from a NOLA refugee, but he insisted they were done with them (I understand why, now). So he gave me two Menu No. 8s (beef patty) and one Menu No. 15 (beef enchilada) to try out.

Working from home today, I (and, ultimately, the dogs) had a perfect chance to try out an MRE.

So here we go: Menu No. 8 – Beef Patty

The first thing I noticed was the little soldier silhouette in the upper left corner. Obviously this guy didn”t get Gen. Honore”s order to lower his weapon.

What”s in the bag

Left column packets – Nacho Cheese Pretzels, Wheat Snack Bread, Wheat Snack Bread

Center column packets – Accessories Packet, Spoon, BBQ Sauce, Cheese Spread with Bacon, Beef Patty

Right column packets – Mexican Style Macaroni and Cheese, Flameless Ration Heater

The things in boxes (beef patty and mac/cheese) are meant to be heated, but there”s just one Flameless Ration Heater. Maybe there”s a trick to getting the one heater to heat the two boxes, but I couldn”t figure that out.

A quick overview of the contents revealed the one great thing about an MRE – the tiny Tabasco bottle that”s included:


I decided to use the Flameless Ration Heater on the Beef Patty, since it”s the advertised entree. The heating process is pretty simple – put a little water in the FRH, wrap it around the pouch and stuff both back into the box. It cooks on an incline as the illustrated instructions indicate:

For my lunch, the role of “something” was played by a bottle of Maker”s Mark:

As my Beef Patty was simmering away in its hydrogen sauna (the MRE is careful to warn you not to cook too many of them in a small space, as it may suck all the oxygen away), I checked out the rest of the pack.

The Mac & Cheese

The good news about this stuff is that it”s fully-cooked and has “real” cheese in it. I imagine it could be heated in hot water if an FRH wasn”t available. I tasted it cold right out of the pouch. It”s pretty much on par with public-school cafeteria mac & cheese. The dogs liked it.

Wheat Snack Bread

These look like Soviet Pop-Tarts and taste even worse than you might imagine. They”re as dense as cardboard and have all the flavor of low-carb pancakes. I have to be on a 4-hour flight this afternoon, so I didn”t risk eating much of this. The dogs were puzzled but eventually ate it.

Nacho Cheese Pretzels

These are the same thing as Combos snacks. Definitely the belle of the MRE ball. I”d trade two Mac & Cheeses for one of these packets. The dogs did not get any of these.

Iced Tea Drink Mix

This is your basic instant tea. I put the little Crystal Light tube in the shot, however, to make a point. The big MRE tea packet is for use with six ounces (standard military canteen cup) of water, which ain”t a lot of tea if you ask me. The tiny Crystal Light tube turns 16.9 ounces of water into yummy lemonade (they also have a tea version). Perhaps the military needs to re-think their tea strategy.

Cheese Spread with Bacon

Not bad. It”s basically like Easy Cheese. It didn”t make the Wheat Snack Bread any more edible, but it was damned yummy on the Combos.

Beef Patty

How Alpo got the contract to make MRE Beef Patties, I don”t know. Upon opening after 10 minutes of “cooking”, the pouch put forth a horrible aroma that sent the Little Black Dog (who was raised on wet dog food and apparently still remembers the smell) into a frenzy. I dared only a small bite of the Beef Patty, which tasted about as the smell would suggest. The dogs, needless to say, loved it.

I tasted the BBQ Sauce, which wasn”t bad (a little on the tomatoey side), and had one of the Chicklets included as an after-MRE treat.

And thus ended My Lunch with MRE. The take-away? Go for the Combos, and spread “em thick with Cheese Spread with Bacon. The rest of the meal makes me feel better about all the dogs stuck in New Orleans. I think they”re probably eating pretty well.

And, by the way, please don”t eat the Flameless Ration Heater.

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