No matter what country they serve, soldiers around the world need to eat.
Each country creates soldier rations based on national food preferences and what kind of technology is available to them. United States MREs (meals ready to eat) often include a warming element that allows them to brew coffee or have hot meals.
The common denominator between these meals is that they are packaged to be eaten almost anywhere. (Also, I have an incredibly strong desire to try one of these.)
The German ration pack contains several sachets of grapefruit and exotic juice powder to add to water, and Italian biscotti, but also more familiar treats such as liver-sausage spread and rye bread, goulash with potatoes, and for breakfast sour cherry and apricot jams.
The Canadian ration pack, includes Bear Paws, but lacks maple syrup. You have the choice of salmon fillet with Tuscan sauce or vegetarian couscous for the main meal. There is also the makings of a peanut butter and jelly (raspberry jam) sandwich for breakfast.
The United States MRE includes almond poppy seed pound cake, cranberries, spiced apple cider (the hot US non-alcoholic drink) and peanut butter and crackers make up this very American meal package. The main – pasta with vegetable “crumbles” in spicy tomato sauce – is less traditional, but the “flameless heater” shows off American tech skills – just add water to the powder in a plastic bag and it heats up enough to warm the plastic meal pouch.
The French ration is quite sophisticaed, while also being streamlined. The pack offers soldiers deer pâté, cassoulet with duck confit, creole-style pork and a crème chocolate pudding. There is also a disposable heater, some coffee and flavoured drink powder, muesli for breakfast and a little Dupont d’Isigny caramel.
The Italian ration pack contains a breakfast shot of 40% alcohol cordiale, a powdered cappuccino, lots of biscotti, and a disposable camping stove for heating parts of the meal, including a pasta and bean soup, canned turkey and a rice salad. Dessert is a power sport bar, canned fruit salad or a muesli chocolate bar.
The British pack is dotted with familiar brands from Kenco coffee and Typhoo tea to a mini bottle of Tabasco. The main courses include the British favourite, chicken tikka masala, and a vegetarian pasta. There’s also pork and beans for breakfast, and lots of sweets and snacks from trail mix to an apple “fruit pocket” that looks like it might not be out of place in a school lunchbox. Plus packets of Polos and, of course, plenty of teabags.
The ration pack from Estonia includes stuffed peppers, chicken-meat pâté, smoked sprats, and liver sausage with potatoes make an eclectic menu here. Plus, crispbreads on the side, and halva with vanilla for dessert. Breakfast is muesli, a fruit pocket and honey.
The Australian ration pack has more small treats than any of the others. Most of it is packaged by the military, from a serving of love-it-or-hate-it Vegemite to jam sandwich biscuits and a tube of sweetened condensed milk. The bag includes a can-opener-cum-spoon for getting at the Fonterra processed cheddar cheese, and main meals of meatballs and chilli tuna pasta. There are lots of sweets and soft drinks, and two unappetising-looking bars labelled “chocolate ration”.
The Danish pack has American technology (the flameless heater) but British tastes. There is Earl Grey tea, beans and bacon in tomato sauce, a golden oatie biscuit and Rowntree’s Tooty Frooties.
The offerings in the Singapore pack were sparse despite its reputation for high-quality cuisine. There were a paltry three dishes, of Szechuan chicken noodles; a mushroom, basil, rice and chicken dish; and soya milk with red-bean dessert.
The Spanish lunch pack has cans of green beans with ham, squid in vegetable oil, and pate. There is also a sachet of powdered vegetable soup, peach in syrup for dessert and crackers handed out to go with the meal in place of bread (not shown). There is a disposable heater with matches and fuel tabs, as well as lots of tablets: Vitamin C, glucose, water purification, and rehydration.
The Russian ration pack is less sparse than one might imagine (and lacking vodka). Coffee/tea, sugar, crackers and a main meal seem to be included in this set of rations. Some of the cans were unable to be identified.
It’s surprising just how much food militaries can fit into a tiny pack of rations for their soldiers. Although not every country gives their servicemen and women treats in their rations, it’s nice to see that they at least attempt to give them food they will enjoy.
I’m completely convinced the French ration pack is better than meals I have most days out of the week.
Would you eat any of these yourself?