2.059 MRE Beef Ravioli


5 (Sat) March 2011

MRE Beef Ravioli


MRE Series XXX (2010)

at Chukryeongsan Jayeon Hyuyanglim

-Namyangju, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

w MtG, CBD

Chukryeongsan Jayeon Hyuyanglim (축령산 자연 휴양림) is a recreational forest preserve.

With 70% of the land comprising mountains, and trekking/hiking being a national pastime, recreational forest preserves are common in Korea.
Some preserves allow camping, but usually restrict/ban open fires, as here.
The hillside terrain was not amenable to setting up a communal lounge area, so we spent most of the time in our tents.

MRE is an American military field ration unit.  Stands for “Meal, Ready-to-Eat.”  The modern version was launched in 1981, with ongoing improvements in technology, packaging, nutritional content, and food varieties.   Initially developed by the United States Department of Defense for use in situations where fresh food may be difficult to provide (e.g., combat, remote deployment).  Each package contains a main course, side dish, dessert/snack, crackers with spread, seasonings/sauces, powdered beverage mix, along with utensils, flameless ration heater, napkins, moist towelette, matches.  Although MREs are not sold commercially by the government, and service members are prohibited from selling MREs in their possession – i.e., supply is unlawful – MREs can be obtained on secondary markets (e.g., eBay) – i.e., purchase is not technically illegal.

In Korea, MREs can be found at camping-supply stores, usually around 5,000 won apiece.

With many US military installations throughout the country, MREs are presumably sourced through black/grey market channels.  A college frat buddy who serves in a US Army tank unit at Camp Casey (see 1.026 Chicken Soft Taco + 7-Layer Burrito) informs me that, whenever they’re on training missions or patrols, soldiers tend to eat meals prepared by cooks in a mess tent at regular hours when possible, but that they have easy access to MREs, which are not strictly monitored unless abuse is suspected, so perhaps the bags are smuggled off-base a few at a time and collected by brokers for resale.

I have a stockpile of MREs for backpacking/camping trips.  I usually pack a couple bags, though I’ve never needed to one as an actual meal, what with all the food brought by my companions.  I eat the smaller items one by one throughout the day and finish off the main course as a late-night snack in my tent before going to sleep.

For soldiers at war, MREs are a source of fuel, with taste being a secondary matter. A single meal, all of the solid foods in one MRE add up to a whopping 1,200 calories. In fact, instructions on one of the labels advise that, should time to eat be limited under combat conditions, the high-calorie items should be consumed first to provide the energy needed to function properly in battle. Not to compare soldiering with hiking, of course, but I’ve found the conveniently packaged snacks in MREs to be a great way to maintain strength during arduous climbs.

The smaller items were eaten as accompaniments to the booze offered at our open bar, starting at noon. I was a bit disappointed to discover that three of the items were bread-related: crackers, cookies, and toaster pastry. Usually, an MRE provides a bit more variety with, say, a chocolate or candy item, and often a side dish that’s matched specifically to the main like, say, mashed potatoes with steak.

Toaster Pastry, Frosted Brown Sugar (1.0): even with a toaster, I doubt this would be much better.
Toffee Cookies (1.0)
Vegetable Crackers + Cheese Spread with Jalapenos (1.0)
Beef Snack (1.5): one of those processed meat types, not actual whole meat.
The only edible items that we didn’t use were the salt, instant coffee mix, Splenda, and non-dairy creamer. The mini Tabasco Sauce was a big hit. I saved the gum for tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I forgot to take close-ups of the plastic spoon and hot beverage bag, though they’re shown in the wide shot, above, with all the items together.
We used the lemon-lime powder as a cocktail mixer for soju, a first. Not the last.

On this occasion, hoping to minimize the gluttony characteristic of an outing with these particular cohorts, I declared that I would only be bringing a single MRE as my contribution to dinner.  I did make steak & cheese sandwiches for everyone at lunch.  Alas, come dinnertime, I was overwhelmed by the food brought by the others. The ravioli didn’t make it onto the table until after midnight, after everything else had been consumed.  Any one of the dishes that I ate throughout the day could represent dinner, but today I’m giving the MRE its long-overdue recognition.

Each MRE comes with its own flameless ration heater. The main item, left unopened in its pouch, is placed in a plastic bag containing a chemical pack that heats up with the addition of cold water.
After around 10 minutes, the contents are warm enough to eat. Here, I didn’t feel like waiting, so I dumped the ravioli and some grated parmesan cheese (not part of the MRE) into a pot over a burner.

In my experience, MREs have mostly been pretty good, as good as instant food can be, especially the main item. This beef ravioli tasted not unlike Chef Boyardee, a personal favorite of mine during college. Other variations that I’ve tried were equally satisfactory, with the one awful exception of MRE Series XXVIII (2008): Cheese & Vegetable Omelet, which has since been thankfully discontinued.

(For more details re food, see WHAT)

(For more details re venues, see WHERE IN KOREA)

(For additional posts on camping, see CAMPING SITES)

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