There are three kinds of people in the world: those who throw food out as soon as it hits the “use by” date, those who eye the date but assess the quality of the product before eating, and those who still have decades-old cans in their cupboards.
Steven Thomas has taken a shine to that last category, with a twist — he won’t eat anything that offends the senses and flags as inedible, but he’ll try just about anything else.
That’s because at a tender age, he was introduced to what has now become his passion: the MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Commonly used by the military, these ultra-preserved rations are also used for camping and disaster kits because they’re self-contained and last a long time.
“It all started in 1997 when I was a kid in Florida,” he told Sonia van Gilder Cooke according to Financial Times. “My dad brought home a case of US rations from the Army Navy Store.”
“The first one I had was a 1993 ham slice meal. I didn’t know how to work the heating pouch that came with it, I just ate it cold. I didn’t even care.”
“This is what heroes eat, I thought. I’ve been fascinated ever since.”
Thomas’ job now is to find out just how long MREs last. He’s started filming his meal reveals and tests, giving people a front-row view to a variety of MREs without them having to try it themselves.
His website, MREInfo, explains what his purpose and parameters are.
“This site is all about U.S. military operational rations – both current and from the recent past. You’ll also find information on some foreign rations (Canadian and British).”
“MREs have been under development for the past twenty years. As a result, many changes have been made to the contents, packaging, and appearance of MREs. I’ve attempted to cover all these changes and provide pictures wherever possible.”
Thomas has, obviously, experienced some really good food and some really horrible food. He’s gotten sick, been in the hospital, and yet still presses on to open more MREs.
Earlier this year, he documented himself opening up something most of us wouldn’t be too put off by: chocolate. From the 1940s.
“This is the standard issue WW2 emergency MRE issued to all British soldiers deployed in combat,” he wrote in March. “Used only when no other means of sustenance is procurable. A dense chocolate bar enriched with caffeine and vitamins. Designed to sustain a soldier for up to 24 hours.”
He opens up the tin, describing the condition and how well the wrapping and sealing preserved the caffeine-loaded chocolate, which looks like a crumbly bar of compacted hot cocoa mix. He refers to the item as “tropical chocolate,” since it was designed not to melt in high temperatures.
He said it smelled something like a mix between bread and chocolate, but that it didn’t taste very good. However, the more he ate it, the more he enjoyed it.
After eating it as a bar, he picked up some of the crumbs and tried to make it into something like hot chocolate. And then he made more. And more. The original instructions were to eat a little at a time, but the video is 11 minutes long and he eats all of it — hopefully he was able to sleep that night!
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