Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Army Navy Game Food - Hold the Wings

Most people who gather to watch a weekend football game on TV dig into Tex-Mex chili, BBQ wings or a pizza topped with everything but Skittles. Me, when I caught the 2009 Army Navy Football Game last Saturday, I ate what soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are eating these days: a pre-packaged "Meals, Ready-To-Eat," or MRE.

Army Navy Game Food - Hold the Wings

Robert Trottier and Jeremy Whitsitt flank an employee of the Army Experience Center during last week´s taste-testing of combat meals.
Robert Trottier and Jeremy Whitsitt flank an employee of the Army Experience Center during last week's taste-testing of combat meals. from Ronnie's iPhone

Most people who gather to watch a weekend football game on TV dig into Tex-Mex chili, BBQ wings or a pizza topped with everything but Skittles.

Me, when I caught the 2009 Army Navy Football Game last Saturday, I ate what soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are eating these days:  a pre-packaged "Meals, Ready-To-Eat," or MRE.

Anyone who has served in a war zone, or is acquainted with someone who's sweated out deployment in those gigantic sandboxes, knows that MREs are the combat equivalent of breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack.  They usually require neither heat nor refrigeration, hydration or stirring. They're simply squeezed out of their packaging and down the gullet - 1300 calories of protein (13%), fat (34%) and carbs (54%).

Mmm, mmm, good!

The meals were being taste-tasted last weekend by civilians at the Army Experience Center, the snazzy, year-old recruitment mecca housed within Franklin Mills Mall. The place is huge, glitzy and loaded with seductively high-tech video games, computers and military vehicle simulators - all things that the Army hopes will entice potential recruits to give the military more than a gander.

Last weekend, while the Army Navy game played out on the center's many TV screens, guests from the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center in Massachusetts were on hand to give passersby like me a chance to sample those MREs. We dug into Southwest Beef & Black Beans, Vegetarian Ratatouille with Italian Breadsticks, Pulled Buffalo Chicken and Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole - all of which I found surprisingly palatable.  Next time, though, I'll pass on the Pepperoni Pocket Sandwich, which hit my innards with the gut-churning friendliness of a Hot Pocket.

My favorite dessert was the Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies, which were so sweet made my teeth fillings ache. That's a good thing since, in my book, there's simply no such thing as too much sugar.

The only thing that would've made the dessert more satisfying? 

A win by Army. Sadly, Navy trounced the team, 17-3.

Anyway,  many thanks to Natick's Robert Trottier and Jeremy Whitsitt for letting me back to the serving table  for seconds on the sweet-potato casserole. Next time, I'll bring a jar of Marshmallow Fluff and garnish the dish the way my mama taught me.
 

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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