Military Meals: Do They Taste Like Rat-Au-Van or Filet Mignon?

Global EAT - Military Meals: Do They Taste Like Rat-Au-Van or Filet Mignon?
Does military food taste like "rat-au-van" or filet mignon? (Nikao Media)

Did you know many of our everyday foods are inspired by military meals? As we enjoy our food and observe Remembrance Day (Canada and UK) or Veteran Day (USA), let’s not forget the brave men and women who serve our nations.

In an archive of World War Two memories, British veteran, Tony Bennett wrote a review of his rations on his deployment in Burma. “When I first had a “K” ration – on a scheme in Shillong – I thought it was good. Maybe it was, compared with the sandwiches the Mess usually provided.”

“K” ration was an American ration which often included a can of Spam (processed meat). Bennett commented the Australian ration was better than the “K” as it came with tea tablets, sugar, milk powder and offered more meal varieties. He thought the British Jungle Ration (which he believed was made mainly in Canada) was excellent.

Field Rations to Convenience Foods

Field rations can be boring. “It’s not bad if you eat one, but if you live on them for an extended period of time, it gets pretty monotonous,” said Joseph Waugh. A Command Service Officer for the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon, Waugh was deployed to Afghanistan on a peacekeeping mission. Waugh added that military cooks take their jobs seriously and are excellent with their cooking.

The flavour, nutritional value and appearance of military foods have improved significantly since the days of the horrific World Wars. With biotechnology advances, rations have evolved from tasting like rat-au-van in a can to meals-ready-to-eat (MRE) resembling the flavours of filet mignon and many of our comfort foods.

“Rat-au-van” (rat that has been run over by a van) is a dish that Baldrick offered to Blackadder in the BBC comedy series, Blackadder Goes Forth. MRE is a lightweight, individually-packed combat ration first served in the 1980s replacing canned meals.

Global EAT - Military Meals: Do They Taste Like Rat-Au-Van or Filet Mignon?
Military Rations
(By Christopherlin [Own work] GDFL, CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Many convenient foods on our supermarket shelves stem from combat rations developed in military labs. Chewing gum, condensed milk, flavoured chewable vitamins, energy bars and canned goods like Spam are just a few. Former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher coined Spam a “wartime delicacy”. The name, Spam mail came from a Monty Python sketch about a menu listing the undesirable Spam in every dish.

The Reason Behind the Occasion

As we approach Remembrance or Veterans Day, we are again reminded of the brave men and women who serve our nations. Let us not forget to honour and support them, and their families.

Also known as Armistice or Poppy Day, the occasion commemorates the armistice agreement that ended World War I on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 am. At the exact time and date, a moment of silence is observed to honour and remember men and women who served, and continue to serve our nations at times of war, conflict and peace. The poppy is an official symbol of remembrance. In Canada, the poppy is worn during the two weeks leading to November 11.

How You Can Honour and Support Veterans?

“Besides being a visual reminder to people that you support the veterans, the money donated to the poppy fund goes to support veteran programming and also provides for those in financial need,” said Waugh.

The Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon offers many opportunities for the public to honour and help veterans. The Veterans Transition Program is the only one of its kind in Canada, where former Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel can receive free help for trauma-related stress, career transitions and family relationships.

“The poppy fund also goes to acquire trained service dogs to help veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), so they can feel safe to leave their home, says Waugh. PTSD symptoms include fear of crowds, apprehension, intense distress, and vivid nightmares.

Waugh added that there are several other veteran support organisations including the Army, Navy & Air Force Veteran, VETS Canada, and Honour House in B.C. Operated by volunteers, VETS Canada’s commitment is to help homeless and at-risk veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

All these organisations need your financial and volunteer support not only during Remembrance Day, but throughout the year. The sacrifices that veterans made in protecting our nations and world peace and freedom are deserving of our utmost honour and gratitude.


Army Rations in Burma by Tony Bennett
Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon
VETS Canada