I've heard praise from US armed forces services members for French, Dutch, and New Zealand rations before, curious about others' experiences.
Absolutely fantastic. Neatly packed and easy to handle and carry around in a cardboard box.
Heating is a big limiting factor for rations. You have to be able to heat the meal up either in a pot of boiling water or with small chemical heaters. To allow for even heating this means the food will have a very high water content and usually have small pieces of solid food. Stews and curries do very well for this kind of heating. Some of the Canadian meals are a larger piece of meat in a liquid. Examples of this were the ham steak (a puck sized piece of ham with pineapple and pineapple juice) or salmon filet.
When it comes to fresh rations my experience with other countries is more limited but based on what I've seen I'll stick with Canadian cooks every time. This isn't meant to bash other countries since all army cooks work hard.
Also, the pound cakes (especially lemon poppy-seed) were so delicious I'd search them out, and my favorite pack was the barbecue rib sandwich - basically a McRib.
In US MREs, the prized items were dehydrated fruit cocktail, peanut butter, and surprisingly, the dehydrated beef patty. The chicken ala king was universally hated. Had a distinct wet cat food aroma.
but my personal favorite was the dehydrated potato patty, which oddly enough tasted about the same as the dehydrated beef patty (unless you added water).
the chicken ala king...i had almost forgotten about; there's a workaround though which i've done many times: pour it into your canteen cup along with the coffee and hot chocolate packets (inside every MRE), add water and heat it--actually edible this way, and the coffee kills the smell almost completely. Try not to splash any on your skin.
but by itself, the chicken ala king is just hideous--if the Geneva Convention would allow it, could be used it to interrogate POWs.
This surprised me, because I was actually expecting someone to pipe up and say, for example, "taste was great, but it was too heavy so we ended up field stripping them and only taking the entree", or the packaging was too loud or too unwieldy to pack out, etc. I had expected some of that kind of response, because at least the US Army Natick Labs seems to pay a lot of attention to these other factors as well. And one constant appears to be armed forces members like to complain, so I was surprised they didn't comment about anything except the taste/palatability.
Seems like someone has been working with Natick on a way to shake loose unbound water using sound waves .
Military personnel tend to cheerfully gripe about anything that was annoying about their service—it's an almost universal bonding thing across cultures. When it comes to packaged meals, the griping seems to focus on 1) how it tastes and 2) whether it gave them digestive problems. I think, admittedly as a layman on military packaged food, that the state of the art of packaging design/engineering is pretty solid.
A recent video about a United Arab Emirates 24hr Ration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMSse6J-wfU
I think his review of Israeli rations might be an example of a less appetising ration - a lot of olives and a lot of tuna.
It's ironic because he's a gourmet of the ultimate pre-packaged food. And he's so infectiously enthusiastic about it, even when something tastes nasty he's so upbeat about it.
"Hmm... yeah... that definitely tastes a little off... (another bite, chews thoughtfully) yeah that's definitely starting to go... /nods sagely as he chews."
"(opens bulging can of creamed corn) Oh yeah that stuff definitely has botulism... the smell is AWFUL! /shit eating grin"
It's very much like he treats his mouth as an instrument of historical study. If he doesn't taste it, how will anyone know? Given he avoids eating things he thinks will certainly make him sick, it seems more "weird, but strangely admirable" than "demented". At least, to me.
Occasionally, very occasionally, you'll hear him hit a point where the food is so awful that he goes, "Why am I eating this?" But even then, it seems like a damn fair question, so you feel for the guy. :D There's a reason my friends and I nicknamed the channel, "Steve, Don't Eat It!"
I also ran across his channel a few months back. Only took a couple videos before I subscribed. He's just so relaxed and laid back about it. I really like his reviews of the included cigarettes in some of the older rations too, even though I've never been a smoker.
In my experience with rations around 2009 you can expect them to contain:
1. Less Tuna (which is actually bad IMO, the tuna is the most important part :))
2. Possibly Sardines
3. Salted peanuts (to my understanding, meant as a tuna replacement for vegeterians/vegans)
4. Possibly pickles instead of olives
5. Hummus spread (which is awful)
6. "Vegeterian spread" (which is inedible, and it is unclear to me what it is actually made of)
7. The canned halvah is most often replaced with a vanilla halvah bar (which is sweeter than the one he ate)
8. The chocolate spread he showed was the rare good kind, there was also another version that came in a plastic container and was awful (has a sand-like texture).
So less tuna than you saw, though I still wouldn't recommend it.
At around 2010 (I think) they realized the rations were terrible and decided to revise them. I'm not sure exactly what is in those now, but I know the legendary loof which no one wanted to eat was replaced with goulash, which looks horrible (would you really like to eat unidentified meat chunks floating in liquid fat?) but is not bad in practice.
Corrections to the video: The chocolate halvah spread he showed is just a chocolate spread (actually named "cocoa spread", probably since for kosher reasons it contains no milk). The powdered juice he had was raspberry flavored (I don't think any other flavors are actually available).
Some extra lore: To get the loof to come out you need to slightly open the other side so air can get sucked in. Since you are not supposed to put sugar in your canteens (they'll start to smell and you'll have to clean them) the sugar and juice powder are often added to the halvah or chocolate. How you are supposed to make tea I don't know.
If you can manage it (usually not in actual combat situations), you partially open the can of tuna so the oil seeps out, cover it with some toilet paper and light it on fire, the TP acts as a wick sucking the oil out, and the flames cook the tuna (assuming you set several cans up together and enclose them with stones etc.), leading to an improved experience.
Another possibility is to stick the tuna and loof into your tank's engine for a slow roast.
As for the can opener, you'll notice there's only one. The first thing you'll learn in basic training when you encounter a manat krav is to keep the can opener for the next one so you can start opening them more quickly. Another is that in a real combat situation you'd rather bring your own since these are kind of terrible.
I don't know if it's still the case, but the one or two times that I managed to glean some NZ Army ration packs, they had several items that need water and/or cooking to be eaten, for example, ramen. So not so convenient when you're on the move, and you then also need to pack a source of heat (hexi tabs or a gas cooker) as well.
NZDF chefs are great though, the food they serve up on the navy bases is especially great. Good quality food, nutritious, and you can eat as much as you can fit on a plate, with seconds if you manage to hang around until the end of serving without a PO yelling at you to fuck off. Air Force food was terrible though, since they RNZAF doesn't have chefs any more, they use private caterers (I think from memory they use Compass Group, who make universally bad food).
If I ever see a 'bacon grill' again it'll be too soon. Overall they were ok, especially the chicken curry one.
Isn't it a Yorkie in British ration packs?
U.S. MREs are obviously awful when compared to pretty much any prepared food, but when you're genuinely hungry you mind that a lot less.
> In 1795 the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new method to preserve food. After some 14 or 15 years of experiment, Appert submitted his invention and won the prize in January 1810 on condition that he make the method public
> Unfortunately for Appert, the factory which he had built with his prize money was razed in 1814 by Allied soldiers when they entered France.
You can also just buy them, they aren't cheap though
I've eaten a few of the U.S. ones. Most of the menus are surprisingly good. The thing that blew my mind the first time was the flameless heater. If you're clever with it you end up with a nice hot meal. Kind of amazing considering they specifically don't want to use any chemical preservatives, but still have long life and thermal range stability.
The Military: A strangely civilizing force for reasons most people are largely unaware of.
I also saw a video, probably a TED talk, by a guy who was asked by the military to revolutionize prostheses for military members who had lost an arm. He initially said that their ambitious goal for improved functionality could not be done. They inundated him with stats on people who had lost an arm serving their country. Their punchline was the number of soldiers who had lost both arms. At that point he caved and accepted this crazy sounding, "impossible" task which led to radical improvements in the tech, iirc.
Canning seems to have originated with the Dutch navy in the mid-1700s and there was a small salmon canning industry in Holland by the end of that century.
If a war does happen, the manufacturers are already prepared to ramp up ration production.
The common theme here, it seems to me, is that when people are working in hostile environments for high stakes, problems which are normally easy, such as preparing and storing food, fixing leaks, or keeping things put, can become insurmountable barriers which warrant a great deal of ingenuity and investment. The solutions found in those contexts can apply to the rest of us and make the problem easier.
So I would expect, for example, long range spaceflight to yield medical advances in self-diagnosis and treatment.
A confusing bit of nomenclature, as "cold pasteurisation" is also used to refer to using ionizing radiation on food for the same purposes.
This is such a weird, niche thing but it's actually fascinating to me. The internet is a weird, weird place.
edit: Hah, someone else posted a link to another of his reviews of a UAE ration, and another reviewer who does the same thing with MREs. Turns out the internet is a smaller world than I imagined.