As technology grows and the world gets closer and closer, barriers are broken down, and new possibilities are reached. This is especially true for the food world, where in cities like New York, any delicacy can be found and consumed. From a primitive age, humankind discovered how to roast food on an open flame, then how to harness that flame, how to package and store food, and most recently, how to cook it using a microwave. By 2022, the world has seen many glorious creations in the food industry. There are 24K chicken wings, 1,794-pound cheeseburgers, and truffle pasta mixed in a cheese wheel. And while there are these magic creations, there are also technologically impressive foods that are freeze-dried, frozen, or preserved, which brings us to the MRE. Whether a French MRE or a Russian one, like we are about to explore, there is a lot of engineering that goes into making these meals possible.
First off, what is an MRE?
An MRE stands for Meal, Ready to Eat and it is the complete meal or day’s worth of rations, typically for the military. It’s essentially shelf-stable food that can handle tough weather and dangerous conditions so that soldiers in the field can receive adequate nutrition.
This is precisely why a team of arguably overfed New Yorkers located in a Manhattan office building needed to try one.
Where Do you Get An MRE?
Well for starters, the same place you can get bacon-scented mustaches, finger bones, and a shipping container to live in… Amazon.
HOT TIP: Read the reviews before ordering your delicious MRE. Our team ordered two to lower the chance that we’d receive an MRE with maggots in it. While this no doubt increased the nutritional value, it seemed a little unappetizing.
And just like that, two slightly beat-up Russian MREs arrived at our swanky NYC highrise office space, giving an air of comparison to Putin and an unloyal Russian Government Official.
What’s in a Russian MRE?
Keep in mind that like true New Yorkers, we are mostly fluent in sarcasm. Which meant we had to rely heavily on a Google Translate app that translated the text in the photo as we cannot read Russian. Unfortunately, because the packages were quite beat up, some of the text was unreadable by the AI, so the translations may be rough at best. The screenshots are included below and if anyone needs to correct us on our contents, go for it.
The full menu of what a Russian soldier eats (translated through Google translate) is as follows:
- Army biscuits made of wheat flour (variety)
- Army biscuits made of wheat flour
- “Army” bacon
- Liver Pate
- Gentle Pate
- Canned Meat and vegetable dish of buckwheat porridge with beef
- Canned Meat and vegetable dish of beef meat with peas and carrots
- Canned beef goulash with tomato sauce
- Snack: Canned vegetable stew
- Fruit/berry concentrate
- Sterilized processed cheese
- Fruit Jam
- Natural Fruit Purre (apple sauce?)
- Bitter chocolate
- Black Tea
- Instant coffee
- Instant dry cream
- White crystalline sugar
- Ground black pepper
- Multivitamin tablets
- Chewing gum
- Tablets for water disinfection
- Portable heater set
- 6 piece set of waterproof matches
- Disinfecting wipes
- Paper napkins
- Plastic Spoons
- Plastic Knives
Our team decided that they would try each item in the box. The MRE did not contain maggots, so what could possibly go wrong?
Beverages in a Russian MRE
To accompany the tasting platter (MRE), our tasters mixed the concentrate into glasses of water, they had the choice to choose from caffeinated or not. Russian MRE Berry Drink Concentrate: it gives you wings.
Don’t worry, should you find yourself without potable water for your drink concentrate, you can always use one of the water purification tablets. We cannot vouch for the effectiveness of these tablets as it seemed already a little too risky to be eating this MRE and our team did not want to risk further ailments.
What Does the Food in a Russian MRE Taste Like?
First up were the biscuits, a vehicle for many types of food and what could be the safest bet. Reviews were that it was simple, quite nice, and inoffensive, pleasantly smelled like a bakery. Definitely a food to consume at 2 am when you come home wasted and need something to settle your stomach.
Now since we were located indoors in an office space in one of the most tightly crowded cities in the world, it felt pretty irresponsible to use the portable heater to heat the rations. Kinda like how it’s irresponsible to invade a country, if that rings any bells.
While we could have taken the food to the microwave in the communal breakroom, this seemed like a recipe for relegation and not authentic at all. However, this SEVERELY impacted the food being consumed. But then again nothing says “my army has been outsmarted by villagers” like congealed fat on cold bacon.
Since the crackers worked out, it only made sense to try the pate to go with the crackers.
Yes, we’re still talking about rations for the Russian military, not tea time.
Upon opening, the pate gave off a heavy scent that mimicked canned cat food. After further inspection, it seemed to have the same consistency as cat food, and well, tasted quite similar. There was a strong blood taste to it and that ration was pushed off to the side to not be consumed any further. Final review: tastes like “metallic dust” and not salty enough.
Next up is the bacon and spreadable cheese. As you read earlier, bacon probably would have been better if it had been heated up, not very appetizing to look at, but had a decent smokiness taste and smelled tasty. The “first delicious item of food” had so far. The spreadable cheese looked rubbery, and while it was no Cheesewhiz, was also simple and unoffensive.
Main Courses In a Russian MRE
Canned Meat and vegetable dish of buckwheat porridge with beef
The Buckwheat porridge was the first up, smelling like chicken noodle soup and appearing to have a consistency of cement filler-like caulking material in the giant syringe tubes you buy at Home Depot. Yet the taste was not bad, bites mostly consisted of grains and overall it was pretty plain and the flavor was lackluster.
Fun fact: buckwheat porridge has a shelf life of 2 years from the date of manufacture and a 24 hour time period to consume after opening.
Canned Meat and vegetable dish of beef meat with peas and carrots
The canned meat and vegetable dish again looks quite unappealing, as one taster referred to it as “dinosaur sh**”. There were whole vegetables in it and good chunks of meat so it didn’t seem like Russia skimped on the nutrients for this one. The flavor profile tasted like someone had “sucked out half the flavor of a Campbell’s soup” but despite being cold, was quite palatable. The meat tasted like meat, the peas tasted like peas and the carrots tasted like carrots, what else could you ask for?
Canned beef goulash with tomato sauce
Originally translated as “canned meat cookies” by the translating app, which is obviously not what it is, the canned beef goulash with tomato sauce was the most intimidating of the food. While it appeared to be “bougie catfood”, it had a sour taste and plainly, “not bad”. Like a solid 6 you matched with on a dating app, this MRE ration was “not bad” but there wasn’t really any strong reason why you should stay and continue on.
Desserts and Delicacies of a Russian MRE
What gives both toddlers and soldiers endless energy? You guessed it. Sugar.
Since this is a complete meal there were both fruit jam and apple sauce, a perfect compliment to the crackers in round one.
And finally came the culmination of the meal, the bitter chocolate. A shockingly normal piece of food that brought warmth to and normalcy to the good ole westerner palate.
Of course, you can’t forget the gum that will stick to your teeth and pull all the remaining food out of your teeth. This must be designed as a version of a toothbrush. Ah, hygiene.
The After-Effects of a Russian MRE
Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on what you get enjoyment out of) the tasters of the MRE had no stomach symptoms or other symptoms following the taste testing. In fact, it was a member of our team who did not partake in the MRE but had a suspect taco in Fort Greene, Brooklyn that same day who came down with food poisoning.
Our team tried almost everything in the box, well, everything of substance that is. A review on the coffee and tea, the water purification tablets, the sugar and creamer, and the heater will need to come from another source. But for now, I can tell you that Russia is not winning any wars when it comes to delicious MREs, and if you have to eat one, for chrissakes, heat the darn thing.
Alda is a mom, Brooklynite, and real estate lover. In her free time, she cruises real estate listings to dream of a perfectly attainable several million-dollar brownstone, much to her husband's annoyance. Alda is also convinced she knows everything there is to know about New York City, based solely on consistent people-watching and eavesdropping. Mrs. Burrows would be an amazing trivia partner but instead chooses to write about all the random stuff she knows.