Sunday, 8 August 2010

Things we have learnt from books N'2

This is our 'hope to do this' weekly feature. Although authors like to entertain us or give us insights into other peoples lives and the human condition, sometimes they will educate us with a actual fact. After verifying a found fact (via the internet) we will share what we have learnt from a book this week.

Number 2. Army food can last a 100 years – from The Passage by Justin Cronin

There's a part in The Passage where a group of survivors are wandering around the desert when they stumble into a shelter which has standard Army pouch food containing the letters MRE. They then tuck in after being told quite confidently by one of the group members that even after 90 years 'Most are pretty good'. This seemed a little far fetched so I looked into it.

Well MRE does indeed stand for 'Meals ready to eat' and is used as army food, BUT the most they last for is 5 years or up to 10 years if kept at less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit which is way off from the 90 years in the book.

You could argue that The world in The Passage ends in the future and that maybe the Army by that time has invented food that lasts 90 years. Hmmmmmm well the exact year when everything ends is not given in the book but we do know that Jenna Bush is a state governor (give me strength.) Lets say Jenna Bush is therefore 50 years old when The Passage takes place (that seems like a good age for a Governor?) that would mean that the Army would have to invent this super food within 21 years.

Could be done but I'm going to argue and say why would the US Army do that? They are one of the most best equipped Armies in the world and certainly don't send any of their men away for anywhere near 90 years so really there's no need for them to invest loads of money developing this super-food.

Final Verdict – your wrong Cronin WRONG

Posted by Jess


  1. This is one of those things that I'd be sure to fail to notice if I were reading the book, but now that you pointed it out, yes, it definitely makes little sense.

  2. LOL! Interesting analysis! I'm afraid that I disagree with you though. I would have thought it would be quite easy to make food last for 100 years. All they need to do is seal them properly and remove the air. I think properly stored tin cans and vacuum packed food would easily last that long - especially those produced 20 years from now. There are a lot of other things I question about The Passage though :-)

  3. I'm reading The Passsage right now and haven't gotten to this part yet. I'd think they could make food last for nearly 100 years with the right technology/conditions but I bet the food would loose it's nutritional value. I'm wondering, what if you could shoot a muffin into outter space and it just floated there in the cold nothingness? How long would it last?

    On another note, my husband's eaten his fair share of MRE's when he was deployed and he says they taste a 100 years old except for some of the desserts which could be good.

  4. Nymeth - oh these are the things which keep me up at night ;)

    Jackie - I did consider freeze dried food but you need to add water to eat in order to rehydrate it and since they didnt do that in the book I ruled that out. I also have questions reagrding the Passage, this was just the tip of the iceburg ;)

    Chelle - your poor husband having to eat that stuff, I saw pictures of them and they looked a bit grim.

  5. Hilarious and good for you for noticing. Talk about close reading! Do publishers even employ fact checkers? Because this would be a great job for you among other bookish tasks. And btw, MREs are pretty gross. :) Happy reading!

  6. I love this feature, and I hope you're able to do it weekly. This particular one reminds me of one part in Holes (by Louis Sachar), where two boys eat hundred-year-old canned peaches that have fermented, but are still good. I wonder if that would actually work...I've never thought about it before.

  7. I like this feature - it's like a book-blogging Mythbuster.

  8. This is the first time I've read this blog and this post has totally made me smile! I shall be back for more.

    I'd love to know if the stuff could last for 100 years but then they'd have to come up with something that would keep me going for just as long............

  9. Frances - I dunno why these things jump out at me, I wasn't particulary enjoying that part of the book an it was getting abit slow which is why I think I noticed.

    Zara - erh 100 year old peaches, thats just dodgy.

    Christy - hopefully most authors put in true facts (like last weeks feature on Perfume)

    Sazzy - now thats true why make food that lastest longer than the average lifespan. Im thinking about this too much now ;)

  10. This reminds me of the rations that were in the HBO series, The Pacific. The soldiers were eating rations from WWI at the beginning of WWII. I'm pretty sure they got sick from them. I can't remember if it was in the book, but I would guess that since the series was based off of memoirs and was a historical production, it would be true. Very interesting! I will agree with you! :)

  11. Carin - you know I keep missing the Oacific which is still showing here which is a shame as I think I would really love it.

  12. @Jessica - I think it's coming out on DVD in November. I know a lot of people don't like it as much as Band of Brothers (the comparisons were inevitable since both were Spielberg/Hanks things), but I really like what it accomplished. The Pacific was meant to show the hell of war while BoB was meant to show the brotherhood of war so they were very different. It was a little hard to follow who everyone was too since many were in different Divisions (the 1st Marines and the 7th Marines mostly) so some of the characters didn't meet up with each other. I've watched it through twice and read the book and I mostly know everyone now though. I think the show is fantastic. I hope you do get to see it. Let me know what you think when you do! :)