Thursday, October 21, 2010

THE LOST ART OF FIELD COOKING II; FIELD RATIONS





Let’s face it. Americans are spoiled. When it comes to feeding the troops, even American soldiers are pretty well off compared to most other countries. Well, at least the FOBBITs are anyway. For the grunts it's MRE's, which are actually pretty good these days, although depending on who you ask MRE stands for "Meal Rejected by Ethiopia" or "Meal Refusing to Exit". This was not always the case, and American soldiers had to make do with some awful stuff at various times.
General George Washington’s troops in the starvation winter at Valley Forge suffered unnecessarily. Political bickering and a congress (those jerks again?) unwilling to provide adequate funding and/or hiring profiteers when they did, combined to do a horrible injustice to the fledgling army. The politicians and profiteers kept the soldiers in rags and on the verge of starvation.
During the American Civil War, the Confederate Army was very often precariously balanced on the edge of starvation. Generals like J.E.B. Stuart and Nathan Bedford Forrest, as well as some of the raiders and partisans, delighted in successfully capturing large amounts of Union supplies and provisions, but this could only be a short-term stopgap measure.
United States Marine Corps officers and NCO’s serving in places like Nicaragua, Cuba, Honduras, etc during the “Banana Wars” of the 1920’s and 1930’s were fully expected to make due with expedients added to their normal military supplies of food, to include being their own butchers.
The field ration.—a. Every effort should be made to build up the supply of rations at the advanced patrol bases and outposts until they approach or equal the normal garrison ration in quantity and variety. A patrol operating from those bases, should never carry more, and may often carry less, than the components of the field ration, modified in accordance with the probably foodstuffs which can be obtained in the area. Emphasis should be placed on those articles which give the greatest return in food value for the bulk and weight carried, and the ease with which they can be transported. This may not result in a “balanced” ration, but the defjiciencies encountered in the field can be compensated for upon the return of the patrol to its base. The general tendency of troops is to carry too great a variety and too large a quantity of foodstuffs with patrols in the field. Man should become accustomed to the native fare as quickly as possible. If properly led, they will soon learn that they can subsist quite well and operate efficiently on much less than the regular garrison ration. This is a matter of training and is influenced in a large measure by the attitude of the patrol leader and other commissioned and non-commissioned officers.
b. The prescribed field ration is approximately as follows:
Component articles Substitute articles
1 pound hard bread…………………. 1-1/4 fresh bread, or
1-1/8 pounds flour.
1 pound tinned……………………… 1-1/4 pounds salt meat, or
1-1/4 pounds smoked meat
1-3/4 pounds fresh meat, or
1-3/4 pounds fresh fish, or
1-3/4 pounds poultry.
¾ pound tinned vegetables…………. 1-3/4 pounds fresh vegetables, or
3 gills beans or peas, or
½ pound rice or other cereal.
2 ounces coffee…………………….. 2 ounces cocoa, or
½ ounce tea.
1 ounce evaporated milk……………1/16 quart fresh milk.
Salt and pepper.
c. Suitable foodstuffs from the regular issue include: rice, rolled oats, hominy grits, dry beans, canned pork and beans, corned beef hash, salmon, corned beef, chipped beef, bacon, Vienna sausage, hard bread, dried fruits, cheese, sugar coffee, tea, evaporated or dried milk, salt, black pepper, and limited amounts of canned potatoes and vegetables. In general, canned and fresh fruits should not be carried. Small sized cans are usually preferable to the larger sizes for issue to patrols. Generally a combat patrol should carry such foodstuffs that not more than one component, other than tea or coffee, requires cooking for each meal in order to reduce the number of cooking utensils to be carried and the time of preparation in the field.
d. Native foodstuffs sometimes found in inhabited areas include: beef on the hoof, fish, chickens, eggs, beans, rice, corn, coffee, and fruits and vegetables in season. To these may be added such wild game as may be killed by the patrol. If hostile groups are active in the area, the available supply of native food will be limited.
Butchering on the march.—a. Each patrol operating in the field should include a man familiar with the killing and dressing of livestock and game. If the patrol is dependent upon the country for its meat supply, suitable stock should be procured during the day’s march unless it is definitely known that the desired animals will be available at or near the bivouac.
Self-propelled chow.

b. The animal should be butchered in such a manner that it will bleed profusely. It should be dressed, cut-up, and cooked while it is still warm. Meat cooked after rigor mortis has set in will be tough unless it is cooked in a solution of vinegar or acetic acid, or allowed to season for at least 24 hours. Excess beef may be barbecued and utilized the following day.”
American and Filipino troops in the opening months of WWII were completely cut off from the outside world during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. They too went to extremes trying to feed the troops in the field with what was at hand.
Even official U.S. Army historians made special note of this.
“Heroic measures to augment the food supply were obviously necessary if the troops on Bataan were to hold out for the required six-month period. No sooner had the withdrawal been completed than the quartermaster began to exploit every possible resource on the peninsula to increase his stores. Fortunately, it was the harvest season and the rice stood ripe in the fields. It was only necessary to bring it to the mills, which the engineers were ordered to build near Limay. Plans were made to secure fresh meat by slaughtering carabao, the Philippine draft animal, and a large abattoir was established by the veterinarians. In addition, the units in the field butchered whatever carabao or other animals they could capture. A fishery was established at Lamao, and plans were made to utilize the catch of the local fishermen who went out each night until prevented from doing so by Japanese fire. Salt was secured by boiling sea water in large iron cauldrons. Before the troops had been on Bataan long, no local resource that would yield any additional amount of food was being overlooked.
So serious was the shortage of food after the first few weeks on Bataan that the search for food assumed more importance than the presence of the enemy to the front. Every man became a hunter, and rifle shots could be heard at all hours far from the Japanese lines. Lt. Col. Irvin Alexander, a quartermaster officer, wrote:
‘Any carabao which was encountered in the jungle was classed as wild and neither his ancestry nor his ownership was investigated. This wild game was not too numerous and it was very shy so that only the cunning and lucky hunters were successful in bringing in meat. Lack of success did not discourage the hunters…One Filipino…caught a snake and ate it one day to die unpleasantly the next. There were always plenty of experimenters ready to try any kind of native flora or fauna which might prove edible…although the experimenting individuals frequently paid a high price.’”
Infuriatingly, in just about every personal first-hand account that I have read of the Battle of Bataan, when the surrender came, the skeletal dysentery-ridden front-line troops who did the fighting suddenly found a good many stashes of canned goods and other foodstuffs in the possession of those furthest from the front lines.
More recently and more frequently, however, the troops of other countries, and even the average citizens, have been amazed at what American soldiers dined upon. This led to the sardonic saying in war-time England that the problem with the Yanks were that they were, “Over-paid, over-sexed, and over here.” Shot-down American fliers interned in Switzerland bitterly complained about the “pig food” they received for breakfast…cheese, dry bread, and cocoa…until they sheepishly found out that they were receiving the exact same rations as the ordinary citizen.
During the Korean War, the U.S. logistics system (when it worked) took care of providing chow to most of the UN troops, and once more the other soldiers were flabbergasted by American plenty and excess. This was especially true for the British soldier, as England was still under food rationing at the time. A constant supply of fresh steaks, hams, and chickens seemed overwhelming, and the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps provided fresh vegetables year-round from hydroponic farms in Japan. The U.S. Army also went out of its way to try to provide other UN troops with food more to their liking.
“The Turkish troops, because of religious beliefs, will not eat pork. United States Army field rations contain a considerable amount of pork and pork products. Therefore, it was necessary for the Americans to package a special field ration in Japan for issue to the Turkish Brigade. This special ration contains mainly mutton or beef and the inevitable heavy spices.
Moreover, the Turkish troops will not eat margarine. They must have butter which is left in the open until it turns rancid before eating.
Indian troops must have their curry and rice. The Filipinos and Thailanders prefer heavily spiced foods and strong brands of tea or coffee.
Canadian and British troops subsist very well on the normal type of rations, but require extra issues of tea and potatoes.”
This was all well and fine, and the kind of service the combat soldier in the field more than deserves and should have, although what arrives to the grunt at the sharp end of the stick is seldom as good as described above. However, it made the UN military machine utterly dependent on large numbers of trucks and the handful of existing roads, most of them poor to begin with, which wound through the mountains. When the Red Chinese made their double-pronged pincer attacks, cutting off American supply routes in the rear, an unholy mess usually resulted from the quick breakdown of the elaborate logistics system.
When British forces invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, and Argentine jets sank the Atlantic Conveyor cargo ship, a World War Two-vintage Soyer field kitchen had to be taken from the Imperial War Museum to provide the troops hot chow in the field.

Don't throw that thing away. You might need it someday.
The lesson may have to be learned all over again, and again at the field soldiers’ expense. My step-son was in the 82nd Airborne as a cook. When they deployed to Iraq, he became a rifleman. The troops were fed by independent private contractors. Once more all well and fine…as long as the complicated aircraft-dependent supply system works. There may come a day when they rue to absence of their traditional field kitchens. Murphy remains alive and well, and still needs to be taken into account.
We’ve covered some of the items in The Lost Art of Field Cooking and A Partisan’s Life for Me. Worthy of note in all cases is the importance of salt, especially in the long term. Here’s a further look at some other military and guerrilla rations along with their supplementation and substitution.
Allied intelligence during WWII kindly announced that, “Japanese Army rations have been found to be entirely edible…”
STANDARD RATIONS
Contrary to the belief of some persons, the Japanese soldier does not live entirely on rice. To him, rice is a staple food, just as bread is to us; and, if he had only rice for his meal, he would be as displeased as we would be with only bread to eat. However, rice does constitute well over 50 percent of the Japanese soldier's diet.
As a general rule, the Japanese field ration in the South Pacific theaters of operations has not been standardized, but has varied from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds per man per day. Theoretically, the field ration is approximately 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lbs.). Two types of specially packed field rations, "A" and "B," have been noted frequently. The "A" ration normally consists of 30.7 ounces of rice, 5.3 ounces of meat or fish, and a small amount of seasoning and flavoring. The "B" ration normally consists of 24.4 ounces of hard biscuits in three paper bags (enough for three meals), 2.1 ounces of meat or fish, and a small amount of seasoning (salt and sugar).
In New Guinea (June, 1943) a Japanese table of ration allowances listed three separate categories of issue:
Basic: 1.3 Kilograms (when transportation is adequate)
"A": 1.13 Kilograms (when transportation is difficult)
"B": .86 1/2 Kilogram (when transportation is very difficult)
Under the "A" ration, sweet potatoes, fresh vegetables, bananas, and papayas were to supplement deficiencies to the extent of .85 kilogram (524 calories), while under the "B" issue these local foods were to provide 1.8 kilograms (1,218 calories).
It is known that the Japanese use vitamin pills quite frequently as a part of their rations. Vitamin B is supplied in three forms: (1) tablets, (2) as a liquid, and (3) a tube of paste.
Probably the most common type of Japanese canned food found to date in the South Pacific is compressed fish (principally salmon and bonito), which may sometimes require soaking and salting to make it palatable. Other items of Japanese food found included: pickled plums, dehydrated vegetables (beans, peas, cabbage, horseradish, burdock, seaweed), compressed barley cakes, rice cakes, canned oranges and tangerines, sake (rice beer), powdered tea leaves, slices of ginger, salted plum cake, canned beef, cooked whale meat, confections, and vitamin tablets.
The garrison commander on Kolombangara in May [1942] issued an order which read: "Burdock, chopped seaweed, white kidney beans, sweet potatoes, and dried gourd shavings will be issued as dehydrated food. Canned goods will be issued mainly from broken boxes in order to get rid of the goods in the broken boxes. Since the fixed quantity of powdered soy-bean sauce and sugar is not available, they will be distributed proportionately from goods on hand."
The Japanese use a variety of methods to obtain supplementary rations, or food to meet emergencies. These methods include gardening, fishing (sometimes by use of dynamite), dealing with natives, and foraging by individuals and small groups.”
There is, of course, a BIG limit to such supplementary field rations, especially in certain environments, and, as every hunter and fisherman knows, you can’t count on it when you really need it. The myth of the Japanese “Jungle Superman” being able to live off grass and monkey meat, as was believed by the Allies in the Malaya Campaign, to some extent infected the Japanese High Command’s thinking as well. In places like New Guinea, especially the Kokoda Trail, and later at Guadalcanal, thinking that the Japanese soldier could live off the land proved painfully untrue.

No modern army can truly "live off the land" entirely.
Although I must add, as always, my disclaimer about disliking Commies in general and Che Guevara in particular, the World’s Greatest T-shirt Salesman did indeed have considerable experience surviving in the field as a guerrilla during the Cuban Revolution.
“Campaign life teaches several tricks for preparing meals, some to help speed their preparation; others to add seasoning with little things found in the forest; still others for inventing new dishes that give a more varied character to the guerrilla menu, which is com-posed mainly of roots, grains, salt, a little oil or lard, and, very sporadically, pieces of the meat of some animal that has been slain. This refers to the life of a group operating in tropical sectors.
Whenever there is extra space in the knapsack, it ought to be used for food, except in those zones where the food supply is easy and sure. Sweets or food of lesser importance complementing the basic items can be carried. Crackers can be one of these, although they occupy a large space and break up into crumbs.
The guerrilla fighter ought always to carry some personal food besides that which the troop carries or consumes in its camps. Indispensable articles are lard or oil, which is necessary for fat consumption; canned goods, which should not be consumed except in circumstances where food for cooking cannot be found or when there are too many cans and their weight impedes the march; preserved fish, which has great nutritional value; condensed milk, which is also nourishing, particularly on account of the large quantity of sugar that it contains; some sweet for its good taste. Powdered milk can also be carried. Sugar is another essential part of the supplies, as is salt, without which life becomes sheer martyrdom, and something that serves to season the meals, such as onion, garlic, etc., according to the characteristics of the country. This completes the category of the essentials.
The guerrilla fighter should carry a plate, knife, and fork, camping style, which will serve all the various necessary functions. The plate can be camping or military type or a pan that is usable for cooking anything from a piece of meat to a potato, or for brewing tea or coffee.
A customary and extremely important comfort in the life of the guerrilla fighter is a smoke, whether cigars, cigarettes, or pipe tobacco; a smoke in moments of rest is a great friend to the solitary soldier. Pipes are useful, because they permit using to the extreme all tobacco that remains in the butts of cigars and cigarettes at time of scarcity.”
The German high command in WWII attributed to the individual Soviet fighting man an almost animalistic primitive quality, in many cases as an excuse for their own battlefield failures, who could live on practically nothing.
“He endures cold and heat, hunger and thirst, dampness and mud, sickness and vermin, with equanimity. Because of his simple and primitive nature, all sorts of hardships bring him but few emotional reactions.”

When food is the lowest priority in the supply chain, you take what you can get.
“In addition to the simplicity which is revealed in his limited household needs and his primitive mode of living, the Russian soldier has close kinship with nature. It is no exaggeration to say that the Russian soldier is unaffected by season and terrain. This immunity gave him a decisive advantage over the Germans, especially in Russian territory where season, temperature, and terrain play a decisive role. The problem of providing for the individual soldier in the Russian Army is of secondary importance, because the Russian soldier requires only very few provisions for his own use. The field kitchen, a sacred institution to other troops, is to the Russian soldier a pleasant surprise when it is available, but can be dispensed with for days and weeks without undue hardship. During the winter campaign of 1941, a Russian regiment was surrounded in the woods along the Volkhov and, because of German weakness, had to be starved out. After 1 week, reconnaissance patrols met with the same resistance as on the first day; after another week only a few prisoners were taken, the majority having fought their way through to their own troops in spite of close encirclement. According to the prisoners, the Russians subsisted during those weeks on a few pieces of frozen bread, leaves and pine needles which they chewed, and some cigarettes. I t had never occurred to anyone to throw in the sponge because of hunger, and the cold (-30' F.) had not affected them."
Commando Otto Skorzeny went so far as to claim, “The Russian soldier can sleep without hurt in wringing wet clothes, live on roots from the fields or chunks of raw flesh torn from a rotting horse, he can drink from marshes and shell holes, and subsist virtually without supply columns.”
Although there is obviously a bit of exaggeration is found in Skorzeny’s comments, the reputation of Russian military chow, then and later, especially amongst the field soldiers, has always been bad.
WWII: “The rations of the Red Army are not elaborate, but are nourishing and heavy. Standard are rich soups and stews of vegetables and meat, garnished with sour cream if possible. One common dish is "kasha," a sort of porridge of buckwheat. In time of war, living off the country is an established practice of the Red Army.”
Consider even as late as the end of the Cold War in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
“A chronic complaint among Soviet soldiers is the poor quality of rations. The standard diet consists of kasha and bread, supplemented with fish and a little meat, usually pork, as a source of protein. Cabbage, potatoes and some farina also are provided. It seems that the food is poorly prepared and the same dishes served repeatedly. In one instance, a Soviet unit was the object of a bureaucratic mistake and had to subsist on kasha and fish for 30 consecutive days, bringing the troops to the point of open revolt.
Even when the supply system works well, the Soviet soldier is likely to receive the same meal at least three times in a single week. There is limited evidence that Soviet field rations provide inadequate calories and vitamins and some evidence that portions are insufficient. In any case, complaints about the food in the Soviet army seem chronic. Even when compared with the food available to the average Soviet citizen, rations in the army are monotonous, poorly prepared and generally below what the Soviet citizen is used to. That this represents a source of almost constant irritation to the troops is, therefore, hardly surprising.”
In the field in Afghanistan, Soviet troops, especially in isolated small garrisons, subsisted largely on “Dry Rations”, similar to the old American C-Rations. The menu included 3 different meals: A can of meat, crackers or taste, jam and a tea bag; two cans of meat mixed with oatmeal; or a can of meat and a can of vegetables and fruit.
Such a bland and unbalanced diet led soldiers to supplement their rations by purchasing civilian food locally. This led them to being exposed to all kinds of funky and strange local diseases and infections for which their immune system had no defense.
During the Korean War, North Korean and Red Chinese supply systems worked in the same way as the Soviet WWII system, and “living off the land” consisted of buying, or more often just taking, whatever the local inhabitants had on hand. When he was supplied by the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army, the CCF infantryman usually received something along the lines of a bag of rice, rice cakes, and dried fish.
More modern Cold War rations for the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army came in three forms.
The standard ration consisted of rice, flour, pork, fish, eggs, soybeans, vegetables, edible oil, and salt, sugar, and other condiments. The individual soldier was issued 4 to 6 kilograms of food per day. Most of the fish, pork, and vegetables are produced locally by individual units for their consumption.
The combat ration consisted of dried rice, dried fried wheat, or a baked mixture of soybeans, corn, millet and kaoliang (Chinese sorghum) to which water is added before eating. Prior to a major operation, each soldier is issued the equivalent of from 5 to 7 days’ rations.
The emergency ration is a compressed, rectangular biscuit made of flour, salt, and oil. Each soldier carried about 12 of these biscuits in addition to his combat ration.
Under simulated or actual combat conditions, companies, battalions, and regiments each store the equivalent of 7 days’ supply of rations. Divisions maintain 10 days’ supply, and armies from 2 to 4 weeks’ supply. Rations are delivered from division to regiment, and from regiment to battalion and company, or directly to forward positions. During troop movements in peacetime, rations are often purchased from local communes.”
As for the Germans during WWII, technical innovations were constantly being tested and produced in an attempt to make the supply of food to the troops both nutritious and easy to transport. As our look at sawdust bread and wild edibles in the other article noted, the supply end was the biggest problem. The following is from a war-time German military magazine, so no doubt at least some of it contains a bit of embellishment.

Every soldier thinks his chow is always the worst.
Of the new rations: “Among them are the following: Soybean flour, called Edelsoja, which added to soups and breads provides proteins, fats, and mineral salts without the use of meats, milk and eggs; tomatoes, cheese, jam and applesauce in powdered form; ‘bratling powder’, a substitute for meat, a powdered mixture made from soybeans, grain and milk albumins spiced with herbs; vegetable juices of spinach and cabbage, carrots and spinach compressed into brick form; sauerkraut dried and compressed into cubes; meat, cooked, packed in small paper boxes and gradually frozen which preserves it without refrigeration for about six days. Also, for temporarily isolated units, such as tank, mountain or parachute troops, they have developed a concentrate called ‘Pemmikan’ which contains, smoked meat, bacon, soybean flour, dried fruits, whey, tomato pulp, yeast, green pepper, cranberries and lecithin. Another concentrate called ‘V-drops’ contains dextrose, whey, milk, fat and vitamin C, is said to have been used to augment the ration in the Norway campaign.
Allied intelligence noted, however, some differences from the above in the 2-3 day food supply issued to the fallschirmjaeger parachute troops.
“Special foods taken include Wittier bread, sliced and wrapped, which is supposed to last indefinitely until unwrapped (but, in fact, does not); chocolate mixed with kola (Schokokola), and with caffeine (Kobaona), which is not believed to be any better than ordinary chocolate; and simple refreshing foods like grape sugar. Most of the food is quite ordinary.”
British Commandos of the Second World War trained to get the most from their field rations as well.
“A special ration, designed to give a man enough sustenance to enable him to operate under rigorous conditions, was developed at the Advanced Infantry Assault School by an officer who had had considerable experience in mountain operations in all climates. The ration was simple and light in weight; it was designed for individual cooking, and was easily handled in the field. A U. S. observer subsisted on this ration and reported that it proved to be sufficient for the period for which it was designed and that it was reasonably palatable.
Typical Ration.-A typical ration follows:
Daily Requirements:
Pemmican (dried meat, 60% lean, 40% fat)-----------------ounces 3
Chocolate-------------------------------------------------------------------do 3
Oatmeal --------------------------------------------------------------------do 5
Biscuit --------------------------------------------------------------------- do 6
Dried fruit ----------------------------------------------------------------- do 5
Margarine or butter -------------------------------------------------do 1-1/2
Tea or coffee (compressed)-----------------------------------------do 1/4
Salt ----------------------------------------------------------------------- do 1/4
Sugar (lump)----------------------------------------------------------do 1-1/2
Total weight---------------------------------------------------------do 25-1/2
Diet Sheet:
Breakfast:
Oatmeal ------------------------------------------------------------------do 3
Biscuit---------------------------------------------------------------------do 2
Dried fruit --------------------------------------------------------- ounces 1
Margarine ------------------------------------------------------------ do 1/2
Tea ---------------------------------------------------------------------- pint 1
Midday Meal:
Oatmeal ------------------------------------------------------------ounces 1
Biscuit--------------------------------------------------------------------- do 2
Chocolate ---------------------------------------------------------------- do 2
Dried fruit ---------------------------------------------------------------- do 2
Evening Meal:
Oatmeal ------------------------------------------------------------------do 2
Biscuit -------------------------------------------------------------------- do 2
Pemmican ----------------------------------------------------------------do 3
Dried fruit ---------------------------------------------------------------- do 2
Chocolate ----------------------------------------------------------------do 1
Margarine or butter --------------------------------------------------- do 1
Tea or coffee ---------------------------------------------------------- pint 1
Rations were carried in their packs by the soldiers. Food was prepared in mess tins, individually. The soldiers were encouraged to use dandelion shoots, grass nettles, and other herbs in conjunction with pemmican and oatmeal for making a stew. These herbs in the stew contributed vitamin C.”
British WWII manuals offered extensive advice for military personnel in Burma for both survival and to supplement standard rations. Again, this was merely a supplement and not intended to feed troops in the field without supply.
“Food of some type is always available in the jungle—in fact, there is hardly a place in the world where food cannot be secured from plants and animals. All animals, birds, reptiles, and many kinds of insects of the jungle are edible. Some animals such as toads and salamanders, have glands on the skin which should be removed before their meat is eaten. Fruits, flowers, buds, and often tubers, leaves, and bark can be eaten. Fruits eaten by birds and monkeys usually are acceptable to man…
“A ‘stick’ of rice for carrying with you can be obtained by using a section of small, thin-walled bamboo to cook it. Cut the section of bamboo…fill it with rice and water, and boil. The surplus water will evaporate, and the rice will swell to fill the entire cavity of the section. After it has cooled, the section may be split open. The boiled rice will emerge in a stick form, covered with an edible film of silvery-white inner skin from the bamboo. The rice can be carried in this state, or left in the bamboo for added protection.
A frame for drying meat can be made by erecting four bamboo stakes and connecting them with pieces of split bamboo, which are tied to the stakes.”
All of this is well and fine, for those who know how to handle such things. However, the overwhelming majority of citizens (subjects?) of a modern industrial society are so far removed from nature and agriculture that the knowledge by itself is almost useless.
Killing animals, domestic or wild, does little good to people who don’t know how to butcher, cook or preserve the meat. Even the knowledge of what flora is edible is of little use if you’ve never tried it. I make it a practice to pick and sample a few wild edibles every year and sample them in the comfort of my own home. If you don’t know what it takes to prepare them ahead of time, you will be in for some big surprises and disappointments when you really need them in the field.
Some time later, we’ll take an in depth-look at survival and emergency rations from various countries, old and new, military and civilian, and some home-made alternatives. None of these survival or emergency rations, with one possible exception, provide everything the body needs, but will keep you alive and reasonably well until better food can be obtained.
I personally try to hit the field with as little weight and gear as possible. In fact, for just one or two nights out hunting in the boondocks, I have only an LBE, a mix of the old British Pattern 58 and pre-MOLLE American LBE gear. A compact bedroll, which I’ll detail some other time, is attached beneath the butt pack. This doesn’t leave a whole helluva lot of room for food. The biggest problem is that I utilize the magazine pouches to carry stuff when bow hunting. I’d have to re-adjust things if I had to carry six FAL magazines, that’s for sure.
Most often my vittles consist of the staple of many of the nations above; rice. To accompany this, I have either instant soup mixes or bullion cubes to make it palatable. This is supper and to it is added any wild edibles I happen to come across in my travels. While bow hunting, my friend Jerry introduced me to the small game/bird tips for arrows. He demonstrated how well they worked by bagging a few grouse when we hunted together. Now I carry one in the middle of my quiver between the hunting broadheads. Meat is the best addition to my little cup of rice. Edible flora is tossed in when found mainly for the nutritional value although a very, very small handful of wild edibles do actually taste good, IMHO, though some people have opined to me that a little wild onion goes a long way.
Breakfast is universally flavored instant oatmeal. A couple of small boxes of raisins, a chocolate bar, and a small amount of jerky in a plastic bag pretty much round things out for “lunches”. I usually bring tea rather than coffee for a hot drink due to the odor if I am camped anywhere near the place I plan to hunt first thing in the morning. It ain’t Denny’s but it gets me through a short hunt in the back country. For longer periods, it would very soon be found wanting.
Meanwhile, give some thought to what kind of rations you might carry in the field. You can only afford money-wise (and physically carry) just so many MRE’s, even when you “field strip” them. What alternatives can you think of or suggest?

4 comments:

Charles said...

MRE's: Tabasco sauce is included for a reason. Any meat dish that starts "Compressed meat..." is practically inedible, even with Tabasco. The peanut butter and crackers are pretty good. The cocoa mix is alright. The meal heater, "just add water", is a nice touch. We made a catalog of the lot numbers listed on the box cartons so we knew what was in them before opening...to pick out our favorites. :) Yum!

Anonymous said...

Field rations from around the world:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/09/04/weekinreview/20100905_gilbertson.html

Bawb said...

Thanks Anonymous. That is a pretty cool site. And I'm glad to see the Scandinavians no longer have to survive on lutefisk.

Anonymous said...

That "cod stew" that the Scandinavians are eating looks worse than lutefisk, imho.