This 4th of July, when many were enjoying the bounty of cookouts and family dinners, I took the opportunity to honor those in uniform by eating a Meal Ready to Eat, commonly called an MRE. I also did it in the interest of kitchen science, to test one of my long held beliefs: that a dry rosé will pair with nearly any food.
A recent reflection on this theory coincided with the availability of some vintage MREs (circa 1999, civilian packaging without the heater, same supplier as military MREs) that were being cycled out of an emergency kit. I asked my brother to bring me one without telling me what it was, and I'd try it with a dry rosé to see how it worked. Note there is a long history of durable, portable military rations. I remember eating panforte in Siena. It's a sort of indestructible fruitcake that was carried by the Crusaders.
I've never been in the military, but I've eaten MREs in the past and have a lot of experience with dehydrated rations from my backpacking days. MREs are generally better than freeze-dried stuff, but there are funny things in common between the two. For instance, in this MRE I got a packet of grape jelly, which I had no desire to eat with lunch. But out of habit I put it in my pocket, knowing that someone would want to trade me for it. No matter how revolting some individual item is, there is a person you'll meet that stays up at night craving that item. For me it was freeze-dried green beans--sweet, crunchy, and satisfying the inevitable desire for fruits and vegetables you get away from civilization. On the trail the items I couldn't stand were the various meat spreads (tuna, chicken, or ham salad). Eating warm canned meat premixed with warm mayo when it's 100°F in the shade can try even the emptiest stomach.
My MRE surprise contained the following:
Accessories: Salt, pepper, coffee, creamer, sugar, moist towelette, spoon, napkin.
Grape Jelly: Still untried, waiting until I meet someone who wants it.
Crackers: Awesome. These need to be sold in stores. Much better than saltines and somehow have the flavor of good French bread. Plus, they'd stayed intact for years without breakage.
Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce: Think Chef Boyardee mini ravioli, but with less flavor (it has been ten years, after all). Kind of disappointing, but I know there were times when I would have wolfed this down and licked the plate.
Fig Bar: A generic version of the Fig Newton. Pretty good, actually, even if some of the sugar had crystallized over time. This, combined with the fig seeds, provided a pleasing crunch.
For I wine I grabbed the nearest chilled rosé: the 2006 Red Guitar Old Vine Rosé from the Navarra region of Spain near the French border. Pure Grenache (Garnacha), $12, 13.5% abv.Light sweetness, rich and slightly smoky aroma. Wild strawberry flavors and firm acidity. Full-bodied with that slight orange tint you see in Spanish rosés.
How did it pair up with the food? It went great with the crackers and fig bar, but with the ravioli it helped immensely by providing enough acidity and flavor to balance out the bland main course. Also note that I'm serving the wine out of a Riedel glass, which might be the first time that an MRE and Riedel have shared space on a dinner table.
I considered trying to doll this up to look more "gourmet" for the photo but there's just not a lot to work with. The sad part was that I'd just returned from the Downtown Farmers Market and had a pile of fresh vegetables and bread staring at me. But I slogged through it for science and for the amusement of you, the readers, who seem to delight in some of my more bizarre culinary adventures. This is also proof that such a pairing is possible, should you find yourself in the unique position of having access to wine and having to eat emergency rations.