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Meals ready to Review

by David Taylor

First published in the SFOR Informer #15, July 23, 1997

The outer wrapping looks very business-like and functional - a survivalist-green brick lightened only by a sombre red and yellow flash of the Spanish national flag. The material feels as though it could withstand a fair amount of moisture.

The SFOR Informers RAT RATS (Ration Ready Action Team) is about to launch upon a testing of the "lunch" ration, menu "B" of five menu varieties available to the troops of the Spanish Fuerzas Armadas (armed forces).

photo T.jpg (8851 bytes)The box within is quite small but is very well packed and contains a surprising number of items, including three cans of tinned food. The overall effect of green cans and wrappers was described by one U.K. Royal Air Force tester as "looking like rations used to look." At this point, even before any tasting began, a very favourable remark was made: a U.K. Petty Officer points out that the small, black, chunky and durable-looking can opener provided to give access to the main dishes is, in his opinion, excellent. To show his faith in this opinion, he shows us a can opener obtained from a ration shared with some Spanish soldiers now hanging proudly next to another of the PO’s constant companions - a British ration can opener he has been using since 1979. "It’s even better," he declared, "because it’s also got a bottle opener." Anyone who knows our indefatigable, one-hundred-percent- Brit-is-best PO, will understand just how lofty this praise is.

Having started out by talking about the accessories, let’s get the rest of them out of the way. They include one set of instructions, ten sheets of you-choose-the-use tissue paper, two saline tablets, two water purification tablets, a book of matches and the world’s biggest, I mean really huge, multi-vitamin tablet. There is also a compact, functional, folding metal stove and two heating blocks.

The small pack of liver pate with red peppers got no comment at all from the RAT RATS because I ate it all myself without them noticing - it was rather scrummy. They were all trying to drum up courage to eat pickled mackerel. Again, they were slow of the blocks. I didn’t quite finish it all but while they were pulling faces and asking whether a mackerel is a sea fish or not (cultured bunch, what?), I did some serious damage to the portion. My attention can’t be everywhere, though, and the Royal Air Force RAT RAT was tucking into the 200 grams of stewing steak and declaring that she "wouldn’t sniff at that even in a homemade dish." What she left on the plate was barely enough to allow me to make judgement. Two Americans on the team barely participated on the grounds that they had just started chewing some fresh gum. Not a problem. I glowed all over from a warming packet of instant consomm and finished off with pears in syrup - I almost never eat canned fruit but these were very good quality and didn’t have that tinny taste.

And then it happened, just as I was losing faith in U.S. RAT RATS, back came a young Specialist, tasted the mackerel, and declared it, "Quite good, really."

And that is our overall judgement of these rations "Quite good, really." They are no-bones-about-it combat rations and that is probably why RATS more used to high-tech rations held back a little. They’re high energy and you would become podgy if you ate this quantity three times a day and were not burning it off in the field. We haven’t seen rations for the other meals of the day so are not able to comment on them. And we have to point out that there are no crackers in the ration to put the pate on. How do the Spanish resolve this - is there another box of accompanying goodies somewhere that our suppliers deemed too good to give to us?

[Spanish soldier]