This is the cooking post. My intent here is to illustrate exactly how dehydrated emergency ration M&V was prepared in the field.
First of all though, a few thoughts on the packaging of your dehydrated M&V block. If you’re a non-traditionalist you could vacuum seal the rock-hard M&V “puck”. That’d be the ultimate in dehydrated M&V storage for field use. If you don’t have access to a vac-sealer, you could store it in a ziplock baggie or wrap it in a few layers of plastic cling wrap. If you’re wanting to package it like it would have been packaged during WWII, then you have two options –
1. Wrap with greaseproof paper – early war
2. Place into a small cellophane bag and heat seal the end – mid war
Here’s a recap of exactly what’s in these M&V blocks:
Plus a small amount of olive oil or vegetable shortening to stop it sticking to the tray. One of the greatest mysteries of the 20th and 21st centuries is why, with mostly fresh, first quality ingredients, do dehydrated M&V blocks smell like dry dog food? I guess we’ll never know, but from the ingredients, you can see that it’s not that bad. There’s nothing nasty in there and if you made a stew using the same ingredients in a different format, it’d probably be quite tasty. Surely it’s gotta taste great…? Right?
How to prepare the M&V blocks for human consumption:
Instructions on the original tin give us three options for consuming the M&V blocks –
1. “May be eaten as packed.”
These aren’t something that you’d want to eat dry. They literally suck the moisture out of your mouth and you need to drink far more water than you normally would to compensate. Also, the block swells to 4-5 times its original size and bulk when exposed to water, so a little bit can go a long way. We won’t be attempting to eat it “as packed”. Method number 1 should be reserved for life-threatening escape and evasion situations near drinkable water only
2. “A more palatable meal results by cooking in or heating with four times its bulk of boiling water.”
Mmm… stew. Sounds delish.
This archival food experiment was undertaken using a modern small-sized saucepan and frypan in lieu of unsafe original mess tins.
So what’s it like? It’s like a beefy strained baby food that you’d give a small baby you absolutely hated and wanted to grow up to be all mean, bitter and twisted. It’s not what you’d call hearty fare, but it has some taste and if you were cold and hungry it would be nourishing and warm.
If I were a WWII squaddie forced to exist off this stuff for a few days I’d try to carry some curry powder, some salt and a couple of beef or vegetable bouillon cubes. THAT would make it more than just palatable.
Here’s what a WWII soldier reported after preparing the dehydrated M&V block as a stew –
“Reveille: 0630 hrs.
Breakfast. Meat and Vegetables which had been left to soak overnight was heated up and eaten as a stew. All agreed that it was very tasty and filling. It affected us in such a way that we felt that we had had a big meal. We started on our route again at 0830hrs and while marching felt the same as we would after a big meal. M&V palatable and sufficient when boiled to a thick stew – add Marmite to flavour.”
3. “Moistened with water it can be fried as a Rissole without added fat.”
We shall see…
Considering the format, this one went rather well. It was almost tasty and was partially crunchy where it had browned (blacked?). This would be my preferred way of preparing M&V blocks if I was ever trapped in a time machine and sent back to 1942, then dumped in the middle of nowhere and given just a case of emergency rations to survive for a couple of weeks.
Although it’s my preferred method of preparing the M&V blocks, here’s what a wartime report had to say about it:
“As a rissole it is not very palatable as the difficulty of cooking without fat does not allow for sufficient cooking before it begins to burn, added to which the heat generated from the spirit stove has a tendency to melt the tinning of the mess tin and so mix with the food.”