Food & Drink MRE not so eto

The MRE burger, from sealed pouch to plate, is reportedly a favorite among soldiers, who will pay $10 for the delicacy, which includes barbecue sauce, squeeze cheese, and a mini bottle of Tabasco.

Its 4 a.m. at Base Operations and theres just enough time to gulp down some cold water and grab an MRE from the boxes stacked against the wall. The truck has arrived and the flight crew is checking the engines of the C-130, bound for Armstrong International Airport.

Lisa Burgess, a Stars and Stripes reporter who has been to Iraq and other battle zones, checks the label on the sealed vinyl packet. Its a Meal Ready to Eat, standard issue for combat personnel in the field. They contain about 1,200 calories, enough to keep a soldier energized during the workday.

Soldiers in Iraq will pay $10 for a hamburger, she says.

A vacuum-sealed packet holds the hamburger patty, which is grilled and preserved with salt, pepper, and onion powder before its shipped off to nourish the armed forces. The bun resembles a couple of pita slices cut into the outline of toast. Theres no mayonnaise, ketchup, or mustard, but a cute little bottle of Tabasco sauce is included in another pouch, along with salt, instant tea powder, a couple of chewing gum tablets, a wet wipe, a napkin, and a book of damp-proof matches, which dont seem to have anything to do with seasoning the hamburger, but are always handy.

Once opened, the burger has an unappetizing smell, but a tentative bite proves its a real hamburger patty that tastes somewhat like wet beef jerky. If the burger is too offensive, the MRE comes with a sealed pouch of barbecue sauce and the ever-present squeeze-cheese with bacon bits or jalapeño, just the thing to spice up a meal at the front lines.

MREs can be purchased for about $62 per case on the internet. They come 12 to a case, in a variety pack that features two of each entrée, including ravioli, teriyaki chicken, and even barbecued pork ribs.

The MRE hamburger was not so bad, about on a par with an order of fast food in the civilian world. But its not so good that it would inspire signing up for another hitch.

- Michael Cary