Armed forces from nearly 50 nations are serving in Afghanistan. All those countries equip their troops with meals-ready-to-eat. MREs (or einmannpakung for Germans) are supposed to bring a taste of home, or something approximating it, to men and women far away.
I expected all the meals-in-packets to be pretty much the same, but the variety is astonishing. The French version includes a massive amount of food, including duck confit, venison pate and fish soup. (It's romantically titled Ration de Combat Individuelle Rechauffable.) The Italian meal includes pasta, of course, and Vienna sausages, but also fiber tablets and three toothbrushes. Sweden and Norway get cod stew with sour cream and potatoes plus oat biscuits — that actually sounds pretty good.
Check out those sleek Danes — all they get are meatballs, tuna pate and cocoa. (In fairness, it looks like the Danes put just one meal into an MRE, while other countries provide a multi-meal package.) One always hears that the Brits love their bottled sauces, and it's charming to see a tiny bottle of authentic Tabasco inside their meal packet. New Orleans arrives in Afghanistan.
Let me just say that I'm glad not to be a Ukrainian troop (barley porridge, canned beef, herring in oil, dry crackers, a chicken broth cube), especially not one sitting next to a French counterpart.
The U.S. meal pretty much reflects the salad bowl of our country's diet: everything from peanut butter and Skittles to pork ribs and tortillas, plus one little amenity not included in other countries' rations: toilet paper. Hooray for the good old USA!
(There's an article that accompanies the photoessay here.)