What Really Happens if You Eat a Bucket of Survival Food When SHTF

Rich M.
By Rich M. July 19, 2019 07:02

What Really Happens if You Eat a Bucket of Survival Food When SHTF

Food: it seems to be the one constant in prepping. We start out buying food and many of us are still buying food, long after we think we’ve got all our other preps in place. No matter how much food we have in our stockpiles, we never really think we have enough. So, instead of calling it “done”, we just add another month’s worth.

There’s nothing wrong with stockpiling all that food. None of us know what sort of disaster we’re going to be faced with, and if we’re ever faced with a true TEOTWAWKI event, then we’ll need all the food we can get. In fact, we’ll all be wishing we had more.

But what’s it going to be like when we open up those buckets and find the food contained inside? Are we going to be pleased with what we have or are we going to feel like something is lacking? What’s it going to taste like and what sort of nutrition are we going to get from that survival food? Will it truly be enough to survive on?

Of course, a lot is going to depend on what we have stored in those buckets and who packed them. You might actually be more content with your own survival food, than with buying the prepackaged buckets.

While the prepackaged food may be made up by “professionals”, we really don’t know the criteria they were using when they developed those survival meals. Taste seems to get a lot of attention when people talk about survival meals, but isn’t nutrition actually more important?

Let me deal with taste to start with, as that’s actually the easier subject. I’ve eaten a number of different survival meals, from a number of different companies. I’ve also eaten military MREs, which is the real basis for the types of food that we’re talking about.

Based upon that, I’d say they are all edible and some are even rather tasty, if you like the Rice-a-Roni or Skillet Helper type of flavor. The main seasoning used in the majority of these foods is salt, like much of the food we eat every day. As salt is necessary for survival, that’s probably rather good, although I will have to say that the amount of salt that they use is probably a bit high, as with most of the prepared food we eat.

Related: How to Make Delicious MREs at Home

Calories in that Survival Food

What Really Happens if You Eat a Bucket of Survival Food When SHTFWe’ve all been taught to think in terms of a 2,000 to 2,500 calorie per day diet. That’s actually more than we need, especially if we live a sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, if we live an active lifestyle, that probably isn’t enough. Soldiers in combat are fed 4,500 to 5,500 calories a day, whether eating in a mess hall or eating MREs, to ensure they have plenty of energy to fight.

You’ll receive different information from different sources, but by and large, the average person needs 1,200 calories per day to survive. Men need more than women, due to being larger with a larger muscle mass. Of course, that doesn’t take into account activity; but rather, is just based on what is needed to survive. As activity increases, the energy the body needs has to come from somewhere, either from food being eaten or energy stored in the body’s fat cells.

When you open your survival rations, you’ll find that they base everything on servings. If you buy a 30 day package for one person, that usually means 90 servings (30 days x 3 servings per day). Now, here’s the thing; in the case of many of those prepackaged survival meals, those three servings per day work out to only 1,000 to 1,200 calories, although there are some which contain 2,000 calories per day.

In other words, no matter how good your buckets of pre-packaged survival rations taste, they are most likely going to end up leaving you hungry. You will probably not be eating enough to sustain your body weight and most likely will not have a whole lot of energy for strenuous physical activity.

Related: 10 Awesome Food Ideas for Your Bug Out Bag

Nutrition in that Survival Food

If you spend any time talking to a nutritionist, or even reading what they say, you’ll find that they spend a lot of time talking about micronutrients. Listening to them, it sounds like all we need to eat is Omega 3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants to survive.

In reality, micronutrients won’t keep you alive all by themselves. The nutrients which talk about them are already assuming that you are getting enough of the macronutrients your body needs, probably more than enough. If you are already getting enough macronutrients, then the idea behind supplementing those micronutrients is to improve your health.

That’s all well and good; but in the case of survival, we really need to focus on the macronutrients, not the micronutrients. There’s really no value in being the healthiest corpse in the graveyard.

There are three macronutrients. They are:

  • Carbohydrates – These come from grains and should make up 50 – 60% of a survival diet. Carbohydrates are your body’s biggest source of energy.
  • Fats – This includes both plant and animal fats and should make up about 30% of a survival diet. Fats break down slower than carbohydrates, providing a “second wind” of fuel to your body when the energy from the carbohydrates runs out.
  • Proteins – We’re talking animal proteins here, although some can be garnered from plants, Proteins are essential so that your body doesn’t turn on itself and cannibalize muscle tissue to get them. You need about 10 – 15% of your diet to be animal proteins in a survival diet.

What Really Happens if You Eat a Bucket of Survival Food When SHTFIn reality, the one thing that most “survival foods” are really good at providing is carbohydrates. While they provide fats or proteins, they don’t provide enough. Not only that, but the protein they provide is “textured vegetable protein” or in other words, flavored soy curds. While you can survive on them, they aren’t an ideally balanced survival diet.

Micronutrients are all but non-existent in these survival foods. That’s okay for a short-term survival situation (under 30 days), but if you continue eating this sort of diet for a prolonged period of time, your body will not receive all the nutrients it needs and will become susceptible to disease.

In order to use those buckets as your main source of nutrition, you really need to augment the food that is in them with other fats and proteins, as well as fruits and vegetables to provide the micronutrients your body needs. Of course, if you are growing an extensive vegetable garden and using it to supplement your survival food, you’ll be doing a lot to provide the micronutrients your body needs.

How will the Survival Food Affect You?

If you try to live only on survival food, you will find it affecting you quite a bit. Of course, a lot will depend on the actual survival food that you are eating, how many calories it provides, how much physical activity you undertake and what your health is like before the disaster strikes. Nevertheless, there are some conclusions we can generalize on:

#1. You will most likely lose weight. Not only will you be eating less calories than you are accustomed to, but you will also be doing more physical work than you normally do.

#2. You will find yourself weakening. The food in survival buckets is intended to help you survive; it is not guaranteed to keep you in top form. So you will find that you will become weaker over time.

#3. You may find that you don’t think as clearly. One of the things a poor diet affects is the higher brain functions.

#4. You will be more susceptible to disease. Without a fully-balanced diet, your body will not have the defenses it needs to fight off disease. I’m not talking so much about infection here, as I am about diseases where the organs of the body are not able to function fully.

#5. You will probably have digestive problems, due to a lack of sufficient fiber in your diet.

I would recommend that you augment that food with other food stocks, more specifically: jerky or other dried meats, canned meats, nuts, peanut butter, canned vegetables, canned fruits, dried fruits and vitamins.

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Rich M.
By Rich M. July 19, 2019 07:02
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27 Comments

  1. Oddfellow July 19, 08:42

    Micronutrients won’t keep you alive, but macronutrients without micronutrients will make you sick. Being the healthiest corpse in the graveyard is not an enviable position, but being the most ill person still alive is nothing to look out for either.

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  2. left coast chuck July 19, 14:23

    This is outstanding advice.

    I have been preaching against the false advertising in the survival food industry for several years now. Even Mountain Home, the supposed cadillac of “survival food” indulges in that deceptive practice. I have even suggested in my correspondence with several of them that various states’ attorneys general might find their advertising of interest. There are significant cash penalties involved in consent decrees and that cash goes into the AG’s yearly budget, not the general state budget, so there is additional incentive for AGs to pursue those false claims.

    Now many emergency food suppliers are starting to advertise X days of “servings”. Well, as the author pointed out the “servings run anywhere from 225 calories of carbs to 300 calories of carbs. It doesn’t take a math PhD to see that at best 3 x 300 equals 900 calories which is a tad short of the 1200 minimum the author suggests is just that, the bare minimum.

    From my readings about WWII, most authors state that the diet the Nazis fed their “guests” and the Japanese fed their “guests” was 1200 calories a day. We all know from the pictures we have seen of those “guests” how well they fared on that diet. Many succumbed to the diet deficiencies those diets induced. The survivors frequently suffered from beriberi, especially, or scurvy, impaired vision, lost teeth, weakened bones, all diet deficiency conditions.

    I think the author is overly generous in the number of calories in an MRE package. The MREs I have run from 3500 to 4000 if you consume the entire package. But, they also all contain significant amounts of protein. Compare that to the protein in commercial emergency food.

    There is nothing wrong with buying such foods. They are light weight and have a significant shelf life. Just be clear on what you are buying. If you want to find the true cost of the emergency rations, divide the cost by the number of calories contained. But above all, be sure to check the amount of protein. When comparative shopping such foods, weigh the proteins contained in each product.

    One final caveat: eating several days’ quantity of those packaged foods will make you constipated. My experience with C-rations was three days maximum before symptoms of that condition exhibited themselves. That period of time is shortened if you are not active. At least that was my time frame. Yours may differ but at some point you will experience that problem. That was universal to my observation. Everybody got constipated on a diet of C-rats. I have heard the same is true for MREs.

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  3. dz July 19, 15:04

    My wife and I have been through a few natural disasters resulting in no power, no running water, nor working sewer for several weeks and we learned a lot about what to stock up and “recycling” for almost everything when possible. For our “prepper” food planning, I prefer having a combination of both long-term shelf life packaged foods like the Augason Farms #10 cans of powdered eggs, milk, butter, potato shreds, baking mixes, and Mountain House #10 cans of meal type dehydrated mixes like the chicken with rice, chili-mac, breakfast scramble, etc., and I bought the Costco Mac-N-Cheeze bucket, and a bucket of Lentils, all for serious long term storage of 10 years and more. We also stock several months worth of canned and dry goods like bulk bags of rice, dry beans, canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned soups and sauces, baking mixes, flavored pasta and rice mixes, powdered drink mixes, grated parmesan, bullion, sugar, salt, honey, vinegar, coffee & tea, etc., on heavy duty shelving as a “storage pantry” in a spare room, and rotating, using, and restocking these on a regular basis. It really helps if you mark packages with the “best by / expiration ” dates with a marker so its easier to see. We also stock up on dry dog food, aluminum foil, plastic bags both trash and storage, toilet paper and paper towels, hydrogen peroxide, unscented liquid bleach, toothpaste, soaps and cleaning supplies, a few vitamin supplements, and extra over the counter medications, etc. I haven’t bought any of the “survival food meal packages” because they are mostly grains, pastas, and beans with a dash of dehydrated vegetables thrown in, at a pretty high price for what you get. I do have a few food grade 5-GAL buckets with screw on sealed lids to store 20LB bags of rice, containers of table salt, bags of sugar, dried beans, and maybe some extra dog food, all to be prepared with oxygen absorbers, sealed properly, and labeled listing the contents and date it was sealed.

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    • Rj July 20, 12:36

      Sir, just had this thought, if a person stored different seeds to be used for sprouting, would that increase the nutritional value and add needed vitamins?

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      • Africorn July 20, 15:18

        I think seeds for sprouting would be a great idea! Also fermented food such as sauerkraut or Kimchi (you can ferment so many vegetables!) There is a sailing ship called Tres Hombres trading between Europe and the Caribbean and they make great use of both sprouting and fermented foods to stay healthy on their long voyages.

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        • left coast chuck July 21, 01:07

          It is my understanding that before the British settled on limes and other citrus to prevent scurvy at sea they first tried sauerkraut with success. Kimchi is a good substitute for sauerkraut as is takuwan, a Japanese pickle made from daikon. However, it seems to me that making takuwan is slightly more involved than making sauerkraut, but there may be an easier recipe than the one I looked at. At one time every housewife in Japan made her own takuwan. Not so much anymore. It’s a lot easier to purchase at the store although I am sure there are many grandmothers still making it at home. It is served as a condiment at just about every meal at home in Japan.

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      • red July 22, 01:37

        When sprouting, watch for aflatoxins. Grain and some nuts are very bad. A cap of bleach in a gallon of water, soak the grain for a few hours, rinse with clean water, then move on to sprouting. If we have to do this for livestock, then it should always be done for humans. I know too many who got sick from food poisoning because they skipped the bleach rinse. One woman laughed at it for years, then nearly died of botulism. niio

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  4. Africorn July 19, 17:03

    Have a look at https://huel.com/ – I keep a few bags of this in my storage cupboard as it is a complete food, including macronutrients, micronutrients and plenty of fibre. There is a lot of information on their website about what is in Huel and how it’s made. Many people have Huel (human fuel) for one or two meals every day as it is tasty as well as satisfying. I have no financial interest in this company but I am a huge fan.

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    • left coast chuck July 20, 03:37

      Thanks for the url. The site looks interesting. I am going to have to order a small supply to test for myself.

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      • Rj July 21, 03:03

        If Africorn will refer you he will receive a $10 discount on his next order and you will receive a $10 discount on your first order over $50 at Huel.

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  5. CarrieV July 19, 19:57

    At our house we do a week-long SHTF role play every other month. In most events, we don’t do a nuclear option, so when we live off our MREs we most definitely add grass, grape leaves, nasturtium & rose petals, and neighbors’ dandelions.

    It’s a realistic addition to a post-downfall diet. Of course when we are doing the nuclear role play, we have to let all the outdoor stuff just hang there, as it would not be edible in that circumstance.

    Just sayin’ that emergency foods are great, but you’ll want to be dead if you don’t get fresh green stuff inside of you too.

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    • left coast chuck July 20, 03:31

      What kind of grass do you eat? Is it Bermuda grass, Kentucky blue grass, fescue? Or is it just plain old green stuff that comes up on its own? Have you tried different kinds of grass and do you have recommendations as to which is better tasting? Today I saw a picture of what was represented as a North Korean man picking something out of a lawn in front of a public building in Pyongyang but the picture wasn’t clear enough to reveal just exactly what he was picking out of what appeared to be grass. The caption indicated that he was gathering food from the lawn because food is in such short supply.

      Off topic, but in all the pictures I saw of North Korea, all the soldiers looked like they weighed about 130 pounds. I don’t think we should be overly concerned about their army. I don’t care how many troops they purportedly have under arms. My plan to defend South Korea entails building concrete block buildings about a quarter mile below the 30th parallel with signs that say “Officer’s Mess Storage. Entrance Strictly Forbidden” or the Korean equivalent. Then stock them with Korean food favorites and heavy with Korean booze. As soon as the invading troops hit that line of buildings the invasion would grind to a halt. I don’t care what the brass did, all the line troops would be busy busting into the buildings and availing themselves of the food and booze. Propaganda loud speakers would announce “As soon as you surrender you can enjoy the same kind of food and drink every day.”

      The South Koreans would be hard pressed accepting all the surrenders.

      The only loss of life might be the North Koreans whose systems weren’t capable of handling such rich food and so much booze.

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    • left coast chuck August 4, 01:23

      I don’t understand the thumbs down on this post. To me, it seems like a good approach to stored food. One can ascertain what MREs the family considers as absolute barf and avoid stocking them in the future. Better to ascertain that now when substitutes can be obtained than after the SHTF and replacements range from extremely scarce to non-existent. Also provides an eye-opener as to just how wonderful (or not so wonderful) all those MREs really are. One can gain experience in the best way to season them and can then lay in a supply of appetizing seasoning rather than wait until it is too late to discover that the beef stew MRE really, really, really needs a shot of tobacco sauce in order to be able to choke it down.

      This may not be so important with Starkist solid pack albacore tuna because the family eats it as a part of the regular family diet but is especially important with unfamiliar food such as Mountain Home Mac N Cheese. Does it come close to Mom’s mac and cheese? Or is it something that the whole family has to force down because it is eat it or go hunger? Not picking on Mountain Home, it’s just that they have #10 cans of it on sale this weekend so it is at the forefront of my mind.

      I like CarrieV’s plan for the EOTW and applaud it.

      I still would like to know what kind of grasses she harvests.

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      • red August 5, 06:46

        Common sense, and always good advice. Pappy used to say, but there’s nothing common about common sense (few people have it). Nana would add, Why is it the good Lord made more horses’ asses than horses? When you have small kids around, they’re the best test subjects. If they do not like something, everyone else will tire of it fast.

        I found panic grass and some millet in the ‘yard’ last year and let it go to seed. very little survived the ants, but now, no ants, so it’ll spread. ditto amaranth let go to seed. In winter, the seeds can be planted down back, in the brush with mesquite to fertilize it. Ditto Indian Rice Grass, another native. Next summer, with very few ants around, I’ll plant more teosinte. niio

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  6. Dave July 19, 21:41

    Consider Greens raised in a greenhouse to add some life to the stored food.

    Huauzontle is my latest interest for the fall and greenhouse plant.
    Only 6 to 10 plants are said to be enough for a small family. Grin, not likely many folks will steal Greens

    Reply to this comment
    • ;eft coast chuck July 20, 03:35

      Dave’s comment ties in with the recent article on amaranth. This is from Wikipedia on huauzontle:

      “As with other members of the goosefoot family, the leaves, branches, flowers (inflorescence), and seeds of huauzontle are all edible. The plant is used both as an herb and as a vegetable in Mexican cuisine. While it is eaten throughout Mexico, it is most commonly consumed in the center of the country, especially in the states of Tlaxcala, Mexico, Guerrero, Morelos, and in the south of Mexico City.

      “The most popular dish is huauzontle pancakes stuffed with cheese and topped with tomato sauce. Alternatively, huauzontles can be encased in an egg batter and deep-fried with a stick of salty Mexican cheese. Huauzontle is used to season salads, ahuautles in pasilla sauce, and beef fillets. The mature seeds can also be ground into flour to make tortillas.

      “Like quinoa, another plant in the genus Chenopodium, huauzontle contains saponins, albeit in lesser quantities. While saponins are toxic to humans, huauzontle contains such small amounts that they pose no risk. Additionally, saponins are difficult for the human body to absorb, and are mostly rendered inactive when cooked.”

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    • red August 5, 06:36

      Good idea, but it wouldn’t work here. this close to Mexico, it’s a common item in many stores. the really funny thing is, I raise a lot of amaranth, and people think they’re ‘dang nice flowers, chico!’. Amaranth and huauzontle are family, but amaranth while it used to be more common than corn in Mexico, isn’t as popular. BTW, do you pop the seeds? niio

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  7. dz July 20, 22:20

    someone mentioned seeds and I have been attempting a “hobby” for the past few years of trying to grow edible plants from seeds such as tomatoes, green beans, onions, carrots, potatoes, etc., always letting some mature to produce more seed, then planting the second, third, fourth generation of “climatized” seeds from plants I grew myself. We live in Southern California (San Diego county – Inland)) so it’s really dry, with maybe 10″ annual rain, and will get over 100 degrees for weeks at a time from August through October, so even if you water, lots of plants just get “cooked” and die off. I’ve also started learning how to sprout and grow trees from seeds, including Naval Orange, Meyers Lemon, Moringa (also called Malunggay), Date Palm, and an Asian type of Mango (also called Manila Mango). The citrus will live in my climate even without extra water (I got the seeds from the trees in my yard), the Date Palm will live but probably not produce fruit because of the climate (it needs even hotter for longer periods – real desert), and this is the first time I’ve tried to grow Moringa, and so far they grow well in direct sun, but I don’t know if they will survive without additional watering beyond the annual rainfall, and the Manila Mango (tropical) definitely requires lots of water so will only live as long as the infrastructure is functioning and pumping water through the pipes. We are urban, no water well, and would probably have to dig several hundred feet down to hit water if at all, so if SHTF, water from any source will be at a premium. I am researching rain water storage methods but haven’t set anything up yet. Any advise for growing edible plants in this climate ( San Diego county – Inland) is appreciated.

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    • left coast chuck July 21, 01:23

      dz: This is not intended as a joke, but consider what grows naturally: cactus. Prickly pear will do quite well with just a tad of water help in the beginning. After that, you can pretty much ignore it. Both the pads and the fruit are edible. The fruit tastes like something you have eaten before but can’t quite place. The pads may be fried or barbecued. They can also be used in stew but have a tendency to be a little slimy. Whatever their gustatory taste, they are nutritious.

      Old man cactus can also be eaten. I just watched a U-tube video of someone eating an old man cactus. You cut the root off, cut off the top and peel back the outside skin. The insides tasted, according to the maker of the video much like cucumber. He ate it raw, although for some reason he didn’t seem to enjoy it. Maybe he just doesn’t like cukes.

      In case you are not familiar with the common name, its botanical name is cephalocereus senilis. I had to look that up. That didn’t come off the top of my head. If you type in old man cactus in google or yahoo search you will see pictures of it.

      Yucca root can be eaten. You need to cook it. It actually is available in stores here in SoCal, so you can probably find it in your locale too. I know that Vons and Safeway carry it. Don’t know about other chains, but I assume they do too.

      Yucca grows almost everywhere. I have been surprised to see it in locations that I would have never suspected, like Kansas. It too will grow in SoCal without much encouragement, just a little water when starting out if it is in the ground. With regular watering all of the above plants I have mention will grow like the proverbial weeds.

      And then if you are into making booze, blue agave does quite well in SoCal. You might hear it called century plant. It has ferocious thorns and makes a good barrier if you have a lot of property. Blue agave is the ingredient that makes tequila. Which, of course, is kept on hand strictly for its medicinal purposes.

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  8. Raven tactical July 21, 16:34

    A million calories per person per year is what you would need.

    2500 to 4500 is decent but expect to lose thin out

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  9. TheSouthernNationalist July 21, 20:16

    If you need some fat in your diet try beef suet, it makes really good dumplings for stew. I use it quite often.

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  10. Wannabe July 21, 20:35

    It is good to have some long term storage food. Ofcourse don’t depend solely on that, but be diversified. Many different scenarios of SHTF calls for many different kinds of food stores and this long term choice does have its purpose. Don’t count it out all together. I have some manufactured long term as mentioned in this article in end of world.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 22, 18:05

      Agreed, Wannabe. There is a place for such items in our survival plans. It is just that it burns me that it is misrepresented. If you are aware of what you are getting and what the cost for each meal is as compared to some other product, then there is no reason not to buy it if it fits into your overall plan. Just don’t be misled by the false advertising. A 30-day supply turns out to be about a 13 1/2 day supply. Whether you stretch it out or consume it at normal daily intake, by the end of 30 days if you are depending on that bucket to be your sole food source for 30 days you are going to be mighty hungry.

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    • Karl July 24, 15:18

      Diversify… That should cover it… Military style MRE’s, civilian MRE’s, factory canned, your own canning, you own vacuum sealed, freeze dried. Any thing your mind can come up with. Just have Toilet paper to go along with it…lol

      Reply to this comment
      • red July 25, 00:16

        Yes, exactly. Still waiting on the neighbor to find some glass for me. We cut 3 gallons of tomatillos last night, and now have to can them rather than us a food dryer. niio

        Reply to this comment
  11. left coast chuck July 31, 03:20

    Right now I am reading Ernie Pyle’s book “Brave Men.”
    It is about his tour with the U.S. Army and USAAF during the Sicily-Italy campaign. For those of you who have never heard of Ernie Pyle, he was probably the most widely read correspondent covering WWII. As Bill Mauldin was the doughboy’s cartoonist, Ernie Pyle was the doughboy’s war correspondent. Unlike most correspondents who made a quick tour of the front lines and then wrote as though they had lived there for a period of time, Pyle actually spent significant periods of time with the troops at the pointy end of the stick. His trademark was including the names and addresses of many of the troops he encountered. Today, with strict privacy rules and fears of reprisals, no correspondent would dare publish the names and street addresses of troops he encountered. Ernie Pyle was the real deal. Ernie met his end on Ie-jima during the Okinawa campaign, accompanying an infantry company of Marines. He was killed by a Japanese sniper.

    So, if you have read this far, you are probably wondering, so what? Well, Ernie (nobody called him Mr. Pyle) gave a recipe for dried eggs which he declared were the best dried eggs he had eaten. By the time he was talking about the eggs he had accompanied U.S. troops across North Africa in that campaign, across Sicily and part way up the Italian peninsula. He knew dried eggs. This is his recipe borrowed from an Army cook. It is for 100 men, so unless you are feeding a company, you will need to modify the quantities.

    2 – 1 gallon cans of egg powder.
    16 – cans of condensed milk
    4 – quarts of water.

    Mix all together. Using a ladle, drop a ladle full of the mixture into a large pan of boiling lard. The result, according to Ernie, looks like a yellow pancake with the edges all crispy and brown like a well fried egg. He said it doesn’t taste like egg, but was good eating nevertheless.

    Having eaten less than my share of powdered eggs on an APA while transiting the Pacific, prepared the Navy way for Marines, they were a glutinous yellow mass that remotely visually resembled scrambled eggs but certainly tasted nothing like scrambled eggs. After a few servings, it was, “That’s okay. I’m just having beans, sausage, hash browns and toast. I’m going to skip the eggs, thank you.”

    It certainly is an interesting recipe and would have never ever occurred to me to add condensed milk to powdered eggs and then deep fat fry the conglomeration. Inasmuch as the book was written circa 1943. there is no worry of plagiarism in repeating the recipe and you are free to modify it as you see fit. No need to pay royalties to Ernie’s estate if he left one.

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