Monday, 7 October 2019

Polish SR-4 MRE

A while back I had a look at a Polish MRE. It was meaty, beany, it had some tasty sweets. The toilet roll was of a pleasing consistency and I respected the spoon, so let's try another one, a different one. Today we're going to have a look at a Polish SR-4 individual food ration, with a main meal of Hungarian Goulash, or gulasz węgierski, which comes from the Polish word for Hungary, which is Węgry, which is apparently derived from the Slavonic for "people from the Urals".

You might be fascinated to learn that the Polish word for "hungry" is "głodny", so if the nation of Hungary was affected by a terrible famine the headlines in Poland would be WEGRY GŁODNY. How do you say "hungry hippos" in Polish? You can't, because there are no hippos in Poland and they don't have a word for them yet. Here's what the packet looks like:

Based on the contents of the meal I doubt that any hippos would be hungry in Poland, because there's a lot of food, although it's an odd mixture:

Counterclockwise from top-left there's a cold tea drink, a tin of smoked szprots, a cereal bar, some SU-1 hardtack rusk "panzer crackers", some honey, more crackers, and the main meal. As with all Polish MREs it's an old-school meat-heavy meal, although if you're vegan I suppose you could sprinkle the salt and pepper over the crackers and return the honey to the nearest bee's nest, and apologise for taking it. Good luck.

For the first step I put the main meal into the flameless ration heater, with a dash of water. I actually bought two of these meals. I ate one at home and ate the second at the Goodwood Revival, because why not?

At the Goodwood Revival

I mention that the composition of the meal is odd. The sprats are just sprats. Not sprat paste, but sprats. I have to assume that Polish soldiers are issued masses of deodorant. The tin is awkward to open without getting smoked sprat juice on everything, and I wasn't sure how you're supposed to prepare the sprats. Put them on the crackers? Add them to the main meal? Eat them from the tin?

Luckily I had some rice in the fridge, so I dumped the sprats onto that and heated it all up in the microwave. The end result was almost a meal in itself:

From that angle it looks as if a bunch of cockroaches have descended on the rice, but they haven't, it's just sprats. How did they taste? Not bad. The sprats had a very mild smokey flavour and they weren't as whiffy as I expected. There was a tiny bit of crunch from the bones. I have to admit I don't normally eat sprats; I find that most seafood tastes the same. I mean no offence to the world's fish population and I surmise that fish probably think the same of us.

Let's try out the crackers:

Cassandra Peterson is 68. Imagine that. Elvira wasn't very popular in Britain - neither her TV show nor Mistress of the Dark had much traction - but she was a popular poster. A generation of British men roughly my age have fond memories of going to sleep with a smile on their face while Cassandra Peterson's chest beamed down at them.

Why am I thinking of Cassandra Peterson? Something about the act of pushing things into a pot of honey brought up that memory. As always the SU-1 crackers are hard enough to defect bullets - you really have to break them first, otherwise they'll break your teeth - with a distinctive, slightly minty aftertaste that apparently comes from the caraway seeds. Aniseed, that's it, they taste like aniseed, but it's very mild. The nektarowy had crystallised slightly but was otherwise just fine. It's honey.

What else? The tea granules smelled like pee, and immediately made me think of a concrete underpass smelling of pee. I had a distinctive vision of central London. However when added to water and stirred the tea tasted fine, which raises the question of whether diluted pee also tastes fine. I'm not going to try.

It even looks like pee. In the picture just above you can see the oat bar, which is held together with edible paper, a nice touch. You can write ASHLEY LOVES HELENA on it, and then eat it before anybody else sees. It's a lot less likely to get you in trouble with the police than actually posting messages through Helena Bonham-Carter's front door.

There are two boiled sweets. One of them is a generic citrus-flavoured vitamin C sweet with a soft centre. The other, pictured above, tastes of coffee. It tastes like a coffee-flavoured Quality Street, but lasts a lot longer. I like it! There was also some chewing gum with xylitol, which I saved until last. What's the main meal like?

It was really good. Not just as a novelty but legitimately, as food. It's not visually appealing, but there was a tonne of meat, and it tasted fantastic. The sauce was thick, the vegetables might as well have not been there, but the meat was terrific.

The only downside was a lack of spice, but that might be a cultural thing. British food was very bland a long time ago, but over the last century we've embraced spicy Chinese and Indian cuisine, whereas Poland presumably has not. As with the last Polish MRE I ate it feels odd to have a bunch of meat without something like potatoes or chips to go with it. The main meal would be monumentally good smashed over a plate of chips. It would be an excellent late night post-pub snack.

So, that's menu SR-4. I can take or leave the sprats, the tea was pleasant but bland, the sweets and oat bar were nice but not really any different from commercial boiled sweets, but the main meal was very good - better than anything I've had from a can. I would buy it and eat it if it was commercially available, which raises the question of whether any local Polish supermarkets stock it.

Also, I learned a few words of Polish. Masa is weight, sól is salt, odrzutu zamka półswobodnego z rolkami is roller-delayed blowback lock. Now all I need to do is learn several hundred other words, and grammar, and a new alphabet, and I will be able to look the people of Poland in the mouth.