Two centuries ago Napoleon Bonaparte observed “An army marches on its stomach”.
It holds true today and alongside technology changing the weapons of war, the food soldiers eat on the frontline has changed dramatically too.
Rations bully beef and Anzac biscuits are long gone, but one of the surprises of modern warfare is that the dish US soldiers crave most when they’re at war is pizza.
As a result, The Associated Press is reporting that American military researchers have been working on perfecting pizza that can last, unrefrigerated, for up to three years for field ration packs.
Food scientist Michelle Richardson at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre in Massachusetts said pizza is one of the most requested items for ration packs, and making one has been considered the “holy grail” of their work. They’ve spent two years working on the project and now have a pizza that’s at testing stage, with feedback that it’s pretty much like the pan pizza you’d cook at home. They’ve made it using pepperoni and it’s designed to be eaten at room temperature.
Of course a little bit of modern science is helping stop the pizza from going soggy and getting mouldy, but the way it’s done using humectants is pretty old school – sugar, salt and syrups as preservatives, with vacuum sealing to stop the oxygen from causing deterioration.
Just how important the food rations are to frontline morale was revealed a few years ago when Australian soldiers serving in Iraq refused to eat their rations, compromising their health and military operations, so the Australian Army was forced to act to make the rations more appetising. At the time, they were working on chocolate that wouldn’t melt in the heat.
To give you an idea of what Australian soldiers eat when deployed, here’s a ration pack you can try yourself.
A day’s worth of food weighs 1.1kg and if you want to try one of these ready-to-eat (RTE) packs, it’s not cheap, costing $42, but then it gives you 13,000Kj.
Breakfast is muesli with powdered milk, lunch is instant noodles and crackers. Dinner brings options such as baked beans, BBQ beef, chicken and pasta, or beef and vegetables, and there are drinks, chocolate and muesli bars.
For the most part they’re designed to be eaten straight from the packet, though heating it first makes things a little more gourmet.
If there’s one thing both Australian and American troops have in common, it’s that spaghetti is their favourite dish from the ready-to-eat rations currently available.
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