Combat Rations Change to Reflect Troops’ Palates
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2012 – For a sense of what’s ahead for combat rations, check out offerings at one of the many sit-down chain restaurants that have sprung up like mushrooms around the country and outside many military bases.
Food scientists at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center near Boston look to Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s and other popular chain eateries for inspiration in their quest to provide warfighters the kind of food they’d seek out at home if they weren’t deployed, explained Jeremy Whitsitt, technology integration analyst for the center’s Department of Defense combat feeding directorate.
Soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., meet with Jeannette Kennedy, left, and Wendy Johnson, right, from the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center at Natick, Mass., to provide their input about items in combat rations and to try out new prototype menu items. U.S. Army photo by David Kamm
So “Meals, Ready to Eat” and other combat rations the Natick center develops for all the services are a blend of comfort foods such as the ever-popular beef stew, old standbys such as spaghetti and meat sauce and an increasing number of ethnic selections, particularly Italian, Mexican and Oriental dishes, he said.
A Southwest beef and black bean dish introduced in 2010 is “quickly becoming a favorite,” Whitsitt said, along with a Mediterranean-inspired chicken with tomato and feta cheese course also added that year. Ratatouille and Santa Fe rice and beans entrees made their debut in 2011. This year, Asian pepper steak and Mexican chicken stew went into production.