military food is notoriously awful, as any army movie or war documentary will show you. metal cans ripped open with bayonets, grizzled men eating bean slop in foxholes; you know the images to which i am referring. these heroes from wars past deserve a standing ovation for tolerating such mediocre cuisine.
2003: We started off getting rations of food and water: 3 liters of water and 1 MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) per day. MREs are vile little brown plastic bags, with smaller boxes and bags inside. they contain roughly 1100 calories total, and are meant to give you all the nutrients and energy that you might need during intense operations. there are 24 different 'menu' options, divided between Case A and Case B. there was a time where i ate around 3-4 MRE's per day, and i could tell you exactly what each of the 24 choices contained, down to the condiments. i loved menu #7 (Chicken with Salsa), #5 (Grilled Chicken Breast), and #23 (Chicken with Cavetelli). when i received my first MRE in basic training, i was ecstatic. after hearing so much about these meals with a shelf-life of 7 years, i was aching to try one. after my 1500th MRE, i have become completely desensitized to the utter lack of flavor and engenuity it must take to create something that is more an engineering marvel than a food item.
2005: dining facilities (dfacs) have sprung up, giving employment to thousands of oompa-loompa like short men with very dark skin in dark blue jumpsuits. they either understand no english or are just so filled with hatred that they disregard your order entirely. if you say something terribly complicated like 'no cheese,' they will pile cheese so high that you will have trouble discerning what is on your plate aside from grated cheddar. the smile they give you after butchering your order says either 'have a great day,' or 'fuck you, white devil.'
MRE's were still present, though in far more limited quantities. the new addition to eating possibilities was frozen food. at the small patrol base where i spent about 5 months, we used to horde frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets to microwave at our convinience. these deliciously unhealthy meals were a favorite of everyone, and we guarded them fiercely.
american fast food places were springing up in the larger bases, and my unit's was home to a Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hug, and Taco Bell. housed in trailers, the menus were very scaled-down, and the food tasted almost like it's stateside equivalent. it's weird getting a burger from a dude in a turban, and the condiments depended solely on the convoys coming in and out of the base. signs on the window where you ordered gave poorly-worded insight into what your order might be missing: "out stock, the lettuce" sometimes meant that they were out of tomatoes, etc.
2008-2009: a 24-hour Dfac with a rotating menu, providing food to about 5000 people for 4 meals a day. amazing variety: there is a short order line for chicken tenders, onion rings, etc., a 'main line' for the day's offering of chicken, a sandwich bar, a taco/wing bar, and huge refrigerators full of gatorade, sodas, and about 19 varieties of milk. i love the premade chicken ceasar salads and the cheese tortellini in pesto sauce. some people complain about the repetitive food, but i know better. things could be so much worse. at least dinners don't come in brown bags.
recap: grizzled beans, out of stock the humor, loco lub you.