“An army marches on its stomach.” – Napoleon

I have to agree with this statement wholeheartedly. I believe the Emperor means that food is motivation; food is morale. Food is comfort in an uncomfortable situation. When you are thousands of miles away from home, are filthy, sweaty, and exhausted, a bit of food can make all the difference in the world between giving you the will to go on and wanting to give up and quit.

I remember once being on a field training exercise where our food intake was limited to the main course of one MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) per day. We took a brief break on our patrol, and I decided that then was as good a time as any to eat my dinner. I grabbed the olive drab green foil pack, ripped the top off, and something stunk like death. After gagging a little, I stuck in my plastic spoon to find a brownish, semi-liquid stinky mess. Somehow (and I’ve eaten a million MREs), the food was spoiled. Maybe bacteria got in there when it was packaged or something, but it was totally inedible. That has never happened before or since. I was furious in a way you can only be when you are hungry. There was no comfort. There was no extra entree anywhere for me to chow down on. I just had to be ticked off and suck it up for another day before I could eat. No problem, I could have suffered worse fates, but missing that meal affected my whole day.

Talking with SOFREP Editor-In-Chief Sean Spoonts about this story, he told me that in the navy, ships and duty stations were actually rated on the quality of their food. Sailors with orders to a particular ship or station would ask their shipmates if any had served there, and how the food was. Spoonts stated that the best chow he had in the navy on five different bases and three ships was Pensacola Naval Air Station. The worst was at NAS Millington Tennessee in the 1980s, “They served us rabbit in barbeque sauce. It looked like half of a headless and dead cat covered in blood.” he said.

This Twitter video from @Gerashchenko_en provides some seldom-seen insight into what the typical Ukrainian soldier may eat in the course of a day. I was surprised to find myself a bit hungry after watching it. In it, we see the operation of a Ukrainian field kitchen. All of the ingredients seem to be fresh. Every division has a specially trained cook to make meals taste just like they were made at home. The produce looks great, at least as nice as I can find at my local grocery store here in Florida.

I believe those are bay leaves the cook is adding to a big pot of rice that already has a bulb of fresh garlic in the center. They are even shown grilling green squash and talking about how it will be served with a special mayo/garlic French-style sauce. In a nice restaurant, they’d call that “aioli,” and you’d pay a premium for it.

Most importantly, when making, eating, or even talking about the food, the men seem to be genuinely happy. They have smiles on their faces, most likely because the food is a taste of home. Perhaps subconsciously, it reminds them of what they are fighting for and the life they hope to return to once their war is over. The importance of food can’t be overstated to people in trying circumstances. And it’s been that way for a long time. Seventeenth-century English Member of Parliament, an administrator of the Royal Navy, Samuel Pepys, is quoted as saying, “Englishmen, and more especially seamen, love their bellies above everything else.” Cooks were among the best-paid and most respected members of a ship’s crew.

The Ukrainian Armed Forced DPNP-P menu 2 MRE (reinforced). It comes in seven different menus, weighs just shy of 6 pounds, and contains 4188 calories. Screenshot from YouTube and Steve 1989MREInfo

Open the outer pouch to reveal three smaller pouches inside, one each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The white item in the clear pouch is a flameless heater.

MRE screenshot from YouTube and Steve 1989MREInfo

Among the contents, you’ll find a small packet of dried apricots and a dark chocolate bar. Not too shabby for field food.

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The essentials. Screenshot from YouTube and Steve 1989MREInfo

Here we have the items set on a tray. The main course is heated after adding a little water to the bag containing the flameless ration heater (FRH). The FRH is composed of a mixture of magnesium, iron, and sodium chloride. A byproduct of the heat-producing reaction is hydrogen gas. After adding a little hot water to the powdered coffee, it makes a nice, dark brew.

Cooking the main course. Screenshot from YouTube and Steve 1989MREInfo

For breakfast, we are having beef and buckwheat porridge. That’s right; this is not the only hot meal number one of the day. And each of the heatable dishes comes with its own FRH. The guy sampling the dish in the video says the beef is braised and tastes mild. I’d be alternating bites of that dark chocolate bar with the apricot.

With a little salt and pepper, it doesn’t look bad at all. Screenshot from YouTube and Steve 1989MREInfo

For the main course, we have chicken and vegetable stew. He also drinks the coffee, which he ranked an “Ok,” and made a cup of Ceylon tea from the MRE. It also came with the rye toast seen here and crackers upon which he has spread apple jam. What you don’t see here is the packet of split pea soup with pork that he’s heated up. He says the pork smells like bacon. You really should watch the video; it’s an amazing amount of high-quality-looking food.

The main course complete with rye toast, tea, and crackers with apple jam. Of course, it would look better on real plates than this stainless prison tray, but you get the idea. Screenshot from YouTube and Steve 1989MREInfo

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this looks better than any American MRE I’ve ever had. It’s well thought out, and no expense seems to have been spared. Offering this quality of ration to their soldiers tells me that the Ukrainian government cares about them. It says that they know how far good food like this can go to boost the morale of a man whose day may otherwise be miserable.

The US military, despite the constant complaints of the troops(Who cling to long military tradition to complain about everything), goes to significant lengths to get hot chow to the troops as often as possible.  It only goes on short rations for training exercises on purpose to test endurance in the field.  There can and will be supply interruptions in wartime and troops have to know what that is like. It seems as if Ukraine has torn a page out of the US military’s doctrine of getting good food to the troops not just to give them the energy to fight, but as an important part of morale in fighting units. A hot meal is something to look forward to amid the horrors of war and its real importance in this way cannot be overstated.

This is the kind of food that keeps you going through hard times. I’m glad to see that Ukrainian warriors have this to look forward to every day.

Many thanks to Steve 1989MREInfo for sharing his experience with us.