The Richmond Register

August 20, 2013

How the armed forces fix their meals in the field

By Arritta Morris

MADISON COUNTY — Have you ever wondered how the armed forces fix their meals in the field.

I thought I would devote some time to write about how we feed the military folks, especially the ones in a combat zone. Being a spouse of a retired military man, I have seen firsthand some of these meals.

Some of the prepackage meals are called MREs which stands for Meals Ready to Eat. These are prepackage meals that have a built in heater that when water is added causes a chemical reaction in the heating part of the packages to warm the meal. I have had one, and they were quite good for the items that were included.

In researching some of the ways the troops themselves deal with their meals, I have found some interesting ideas I thought you might like to know.

Ramen a la cheesy summer sausage

Ramen noodles. What would we do without your cheaper-by-the-dozen, foil-packaged goodness?

If you haven’t enjoyed a warm canteen cup of these noodles on a cold night, or morning, in the field, you haven’t lived. But there is always room for improvement. Here is a recipe that is a favorite among the troops.

In a canteen cup, cook one package of ramen noodles with some thinly sliced summer sausage or beef jerky works just as well. You may want to rehydrate the beef jerky for a while first and then add the noodles.

Either way, after boiling the noodles for three minutes, add some MRE cheese spread and dig in. If you are at home, you will not have access to an MRE, so you could use the cheese you have on hand. For a thicker blend, add some crackers.

Sometimes necessity becomes the mother of invention when a Marine needed to keep alert through an all-nighter in a combat zone. He mixed up his own high-octane caffeine cocktail. He put 10 Folgers coffee packets and two cocoa powders and a couple of creamers in one of those hugh water bottles they gave out in Iraq. That kept him up all night for sure. Such a concoction would keep me up for a week!

One of the interesting stories I found was how military people would heat up bread. Grab a packet of margarine or any light oil-which would typically stay stable in the field for weeks before going rancid. Give the bread a good coating, wrap in tin foil and stick them on your Humvee engine block after a good drive. Five minutes later, you’ll have proper crispy toast or breadsticks.

Peanut butter cannon balls

Back in the early 1980s, when the troops were opening up the first MREs, Tabasco cooked up “The Unofficial MRE Recipe Booklet.” While most of the recipes are long since outdated, this little Rees’'s-like gem is still a winner.


1 packet of peanut butter (This would equal about 2 tablespoons)

2 packets of sugar

MRE crackers, finely crumbled (This would equal about 10 crackers)

1/2 packet cocoa beverage power (This would equal about 2 tbsp)


Combine peanut butter and sugar: stir in crackers and mix well. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Add a few drops of water if necessary. Roll balls in cocoa powder. What a clever idea.

If the troops found out they were going to be deployed, this is a recipe some of them would make to take with them. A high-protein snack was a great idea.



1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak

2/3 cup  Worcestershire sauce

2/3 cup soy sauce or teriyaki sauce

2 tbsp honey

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp Tabasco sauce

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 tsp red pepper flakes


Trim the flank steak of excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place in the freezer for one to two hours in order to firm up.

Remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain into long strips.

Place the strips of meat along with all the remaining ingredients into a large, one-gallon plastic bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients.

Place the bag in the refrigerator for three to six hours. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto three trays of the dehydrator. Follow the dehydrator directions for drying meats.

The research I did on the meals in the military really hit home for my being part of a military family and not realizing what all they have to deal with on deployment.

We are all so blessed for the men and women who do risk their lives so that we do not have to heat our bread on an engine or mix a dessert in a cup.

Arritta Morris holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and a master’s degree in counseling from Eastern Kentucky University. She is certified as a food service specialist by the School Nutrition Association.