Say what you want about war, it does create a lot of advances in technology. For example, canning was invented because Napoleon wanted a way to feed his army. World War 2 brought its own set of advances, and many of those after the war were transferred into a ready-made food industry. After all, where do you think Spam and canned pasta came from? To let my kids truly experience the joy of a World War 2 soldier’s lunch we hit the grocery store.
(there’s probably an affiliate link or two in here, but I also probably bought most of this at the grocery store)
At the grocery store buy for your World War 2 soldier’s lunch
Now, if you have a military surplus store near you, for a more historically accurate plan go and buy some MRE (Meals Ready to Eat), which it looks like you can buy on Amazon. This would be the time period for them to of started seriously here in the United States.
Let’s talk some World War 2 chow
Field Rations were created to be eaten in the field, obviously, without needing any additional supplies. Now obviously it would taste better if you could heat it, but it didn’t have to be heated. If you watch the video, you’ll see it can still be eaten.
NO seriously, you have to watch that video because he’s so ridiculously excited about these biscuits, even with comments like “Is that mold on that? I’m still gonna eat it later.” The comments section is also rather humorous as everyone is speculating on whether or not he went to the ER later…
I’m guessing he didn’t.
Okay, back to the lesson.
Nevermind, I just spent the last 20 minutes scrolling through his channel and then I watched him eat a Civil War hardtack biscuit. My stomach hurts now from laughing so hard. There’s some truly frightening things he eats. Apparently he ate the meat rations from a Boer War rations meal. I found it, he did. This is INSANE!
All right, I am going to turn off his channel now because I’m not going to get anything done.
World War 2 C rations
In the late 1930s the US military was experimenting with their field rations. Right about the start of World War 2 (for the United States, see How did the United States end up in World War 2), they ended up on what became World War 2 field rations, or C rations. It was in a round can with a key, and there were three primary meals which had a paper label on the outside. Unfortunately, the label had a habit of coming off, so you never knew for sure which variation you got.
There was a B Can (which you saw the guy eat) and the M Can. The B Can had some biscuits, sugar cubes, hard candy, and either a powdered coffee or lemonade.
The M can had the meat portion. Originally it was meat with vegetable hash, meat stew with beans, or meat stew with vegetables. Notice it says meat, they’re not really telling you what type of meat it is. Eventually there were a few more options, which is where the Chef Boyardee comes into play.
These were designed to be eaten for only a day or two. Ideally, soldiers would be fed at a mess hall which could cook, and they’d only eat these for emergencies. Unfortunately, there were times unit were eating these for weeks at a time. The US military figured out extended time eating only these rations wasn’t ideal for fighting, and suggested the soldiers be on the C rations for no more than 5 days.
I found this fascinating when I researched this for our World War 2 unit.
Creating our own World War 2 field rations meal
I told you we went by the grocery store and picked all of this up. A few years ago I found some cafeteria trays, and they were a lunch staple at our house for years. They were perfect for making sure the kids all got several different types of food, and I didn’t put too much on their plates.
These were perfect for our World War 2 field rations lunch.
To truly understand how foreign our World War 2 field rations lunch was you have to understand something.
We don’t use a jar of spaghetti sauce, I make homemade spaghetti sauce. It’s like one of my BIG meals I make. So eating Chef Boyardee was a novel experience to the kids.
Okay, it was mostly them making faces like that. No, seriously, spam was not popular.
Let’s talk Chef Boyardee, Spam, and World War 2 field rations
Chef Boyardee started making field rations in 1943. They made a noodles and meat sauce, and to keep up with the demand their factories were open 24 hours a day. When the war ended, they gave the president and founder a Congressional Medal of Honor to honor the man who fed our soldiers.
Spam was invented in 1937, and Eisenhower and Khrushchev said Spam played a major role in the Allied victory because it fed so many soldiers. As a matter of fact, Khrushchev said Russians wouldn’t have been able to keep up the fight if it weren’t for Spam (How Do They Make Spam).
The World War 2 field rations worked well. They went through several revisions, but United States soldiers even used the same C rations at the start of the Vietnam War (check out Why Did the United States Enter the Vietnam War lesson). Of course eventually they figured out how to do the same thing with some lighter field rations, but all in all the World War 2 field rations were pretty impressive.
Some More crazy meals to try
Sadly, my cool gallery thing isn’t letting me do the clickable pictures, so I’ll put the pictures in because I think they look cool and link them below