Spring is coming
Easter Monday is supposed to be a day of cold, rain, and maybe snow sleet and hail if we're lucky.
Something was different this year.
A chilly breeze, but otherwise wall to wall sunshine.
Time for a little bit of gardening. The first thing was to set the grow-pod up with basil plants. Basil is an essential part of any tomato-based pasta sauce worth thinking about. The grow-pod is like a mini greenhouse with a solar powered fan to keep the heat distributed evenly. Three basils in each of the six pots. Of these, I'll keep the best one in the pot. The others will be discarded (if weak, or don't grow) or will be transferred elsewhere (if they all come up good). Six basils ought to be enough, I don't think I need eighteen! That'd require a hell of a lot of pasta!
Next, I have started some rice. Oryza Sativa, better known as Koshihikari. Gloopy sushi rice. I think it is a little early, so I only planted two in each pot. The problem with rice is that it needs a really long growing period. So I have put these seeds into a small propagator which is inside a cold frame. If nothing shows, I have more seeds that I can delay sowing. Maybe try some in the grow-pod once the basil is replanted. I did succeed in getting some rice to sprout a few years ago by tossing some seeds into a bucket that was half dirt and half water, but it didn't have time to produce any rice by the time Autumn came. This isn't really the climate for rice...so this is all rather experimental.
The rice came from an eBay vendor based in California. Their website is http://www.smartseedstore.com/home.html, because as you can understand, they don't tend to sell stuff like rice at the local garden centres! (well, they do, but it is food for pigeons and ducks, or something like that)
Just for the hell of it, I also started four sunflowers.
The planting was done on Monday. Today, Thursday, one of the basils is poking itself out. That's enthusiastic!
In British tradition, Sunday is the day for a special meal, known as "Sunday Roast", though I don't think I've had one of those in several decades. Will I be having one this Sunday? Uh... No. About as far from it as is possible.
I'll be eating this:
It might be more impressive if I open the lid:
In a vide grenier a year or two ago, mom bought two army meals and I got one. You can find some really esoteric stuff in vide greniers, though army rations is perhaps more esoteric than normal. It says that it expired in March, but after a check of the insides (I, uh, actually forgot about this - oops!), the only thing that had expired was a canned tuna and vegetables; so mom replaced it with the tin of tuna and "escabèche" (whatever that is) from her pack.
So this is what I'll be eating on Sunday. One day, one day's worth of army ration.
It looks like there is a customer service for the ration kit at www.ema.defense.gouv.fr/sca/index.php/soutien-du-combattant but this is not available to the general public.
Okay then. Weighing 1685g (including packaging), the box is supposed to contain food for one soldier for one day. Here then, is a breakdown of what is inside.
First up is the "petit sale aux lentilles", or salt pork with lentils. Containing "jarret de porc" (given some of the pork things (Andouille, anybody?) it is probably best if I don't look up what that means!), lentils, carrots, and onions. The sauce is tomato and duck-grease. That sounds lovely (I'm being sarcastic). This will probably be lunch.
Next is the "rougail de saucisse", or spicy sausages. More pork, this time in the form of two spicy smoked sausages with a (spicy) tomato sauce, and rice. There are also some chunks of onions, tomatoes, and kidney beans. Did I mention that it is spicy? It sounds like a sort of chili con carne, and...yeah... it sounds quite nice. This will be dinner.
Also shown in the picture are water purifying tablets - if you don't mind I'm going to use bottled water! Plus a pre-punched piece of metal that folds cleverly to become a little cooker, along with fuel tablets and matches. The piece of metal beside the fuel tablets clips on to the tins of food to act as a handle. Matches to get the fuel tablet lit, and a rather nice touch, a little plastic bag to put all the rubbish inside.
Here comes a complicated one:
Okay, so on the upper left is muesli with milk. The instructions are to open the sachet across the top, add hot or cold water, mix it up, wait 3-4 minutes, then eat. Breakfast has never looked so simple.
Below this is curried chicken instant soup. Well, I guess menu number 8 is for people who like their food a bit spicy! The soup makes 25cl. Afternoon snack, perhaps? Or would a Frenchie have this as a starter? Like before the rougail to warm up the tastebuds?
The big white thing is a pack of napkins. French soldiers are obviously not slobs...
The blue tin... Ought to be a law against it. I know the French are enamoured with their extensive selection of cheeses, but I'm thinking that "soft whipped cheese" in a tin ought to be a crime against cheese. I'm expecting something like a long-life version of Philadelphia.
The red tin is pieces of tuna in a sauce that appears to be tomatoes and spices (gee, whoodathunkit!).
To the right, the thin white box is a pack of six caramels. Fake caramels (glucose syrop and milk powder - probably out of necessity to have a long shelf life) but it's another nice touch.
The greeny sachet on the upper right is a mix for peach flavoured ice tea. Peach cold tea is quite popular over here, and that sachet makes up a litre of it, which will be a good amount of liquid for the daytime drinking.
The '1848' bar lower middle is a bar of dark chocolate with 64% cocoa, plus 4% pieces of cocoa. The French like their chocolate almost as much as their cheese, and it is quite usual to see all of the branded dark chocolate proudly proclaiming how much cocoa is within. 64% is fairly weak compared to what's on offer at the supermarket, but probably stronger than any dark chocolate I've ever eaten. I'm a white chocolate guy, myself. That's like 0% cocoa. ☺ Made by Poulain, a company well known for chocolate products, this 25g bar offers 134 calories.
The silver foil bar is a piece of tender nougat with (dried) fruit. The fruit in question being papaya, pineapple, and grape (maybe raisin? same thing really...). This sounds a bit classier than the sort of nougat that I have eaten in the past, and will be the first time in my life I've ever eaten papaya. I think that's the bright orange fruit shaped like a starfish, but I'd need to look it up online...
The poor little fruit jellies (fruit purée paste) seems rather pedestrian in comparison. It is pear. Not that pear is bad, but given what's come before I would have expected something like clementine!
The final object is a box of biscuits. Some salted, some sweet, and weighing 200g without any liquids, this may be where a lot of your energy comes from - in the form of a mixture of cereals to dispense energy into the body slowly instead of an instant sugar high (and the following sugar crash). The salted biscuits will be for the tinned cheese, maybe the tuna stuff.
Okay, I don't get all of this. My pack is sealed pack at the the upper left. Mom let me open her pack to show what was inside. A chocolate drink mix - that will be for breakfast, mixing with "150g of hot water" - or 150ml in a more sensible measuring system.
Two sachets of coffee and two sachets of green tea cater for either preference. French people follow meals with coffee, to the point where if we are eating out the waitresses seem a little surprised at our declining having a coffee course at the end of the meal.
If you don't mind, I'll substitute British tea here. I get really ratty if I don't have regular doses of tea. Though, if I can sneak in milk (I will need to for the tea), I might give the coffee a try. I'm not expecting Carte Noir, but given that this is French the coffee shouldn't be terrible.
Salt, pepper (as if this menu isn't spiced enough!) and sugar complete the selection.
That's it. A surprisingly complete menu packed into the box. But, you know what? It seems strange to supply such things as matches and napkins and a disposable cooker, but not include an eating implement as well. I sort of expected to see a "spork" or something. Maybe even moulded into the end of the cooking handle (though I bet in a pinch the handle has been used for eating!).
I love the addition of the napkins and the plastic rubbish bag - those are nice touches. And the caramels also, a little something to help the morale as well as provide some energy.
But the thing I found the funniest? I intentionally didn't mention it before. Did you catch what picture was on the matchbox? Absolutely wonderful - what better thing to put on a matchbox of the food pack of a French soldier? And, of course, there are enough matches to cover mealtimes plus a suitably unhealthy supply of cigarettes.
It seems to be a fairly well thought out meal kit. As to how it is in use - well, I will take some liberties (bottled water and an electric kettle!) but otherwise this will be what I eat this Sunday, including cooking the canned food on the disposable stove in the garden.
Of course, I'll let you know how it goes. Watch this space...
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