Old MREs had a lot more dehydrated stuff in them– there were dehydrated fruit “cakes” in foil wrappers that you were supposed to reconstitute with water, but few people actually did. We pulled out the whole think and crunched down on that chalky sweetness like barbarians.
It was kind of like “astronaut ice cream” but with more life-choice regrets.
But the two heavy hitters of the MRE world were the dehydrated pork patty and the dehydrated beef patty. Both arrived in their respective foil-lined wrappers looking like freeze-dried hash browns. Pulling them out they were like a giant cookie full of whispered promises. You popped those things in your mouth, dry, and started crunching down.
They sucked the moisture out of your mouth and then you’d chug some water to make up for the “cottonmouth” effect, and of course that dry, hard patty would start to reconstitute in your stomach.
Did anyone ever, you know, pour water in the pouch and try to eat it the way the manufacturers intended? I think everyone tried that at least once. The re-hydrated patties were never as good as promised and the quick, easy, dry method was the preferred manner of ingestion.
Modern MREs have very little in them that’s dehydrated, most of them are “wet-pack” meals. Technically this makes them a bit heavier but you only really noticed that when carrying a large amount of them.
Technically, the modern ones are better but there were some real good things in the old ones that some of us remember and miss– the “oatmeal cookie bar” (sometimes called the “John Wayne bar”) being a favorite.
And no one actually misses “Charms” candies though.