Snack time is the best time. At least, that’s how it is around here. From sweet treats to crunchy mid-afternoon nosh sessions, America’s obsession with snacks is as old as America itself. Well, not quite. But many of our favorite snacks did get their start in the military as food for deployed service members.
You might already be familiar with plenty of these snacks if you’ve ever found yourself at ten till nine in the morning in line at the shoppette grabbing breakfast because once again, you’re running a little late. Or maybe your idea of comfort food involves a fresh piece of supermarket, pre-sliced bread to make into a grilled cheese. No matter your go-to snack, we’re sure you’ll find some of your favorite in this list of snacks invented by the military.
Picking up breakfast
You already know that coffee is the number two beverage among service members (ranked after water and beer, respectively), but did you know that the U.S. military helped herald in the age of instant coffee? During WWI, Big Military saw the need to keep service members caffeinated on the go, so they invested heavily in purchasing lots of powdered instant coffee – to the tune of 37,000 pounds of it by the war’s end. Before instant and pre-ground coffee came to market, folks would have to grind beans by hand and then set them to boil in water. After the inclusion of coffee in the earliest MREs, not only did the military embrace the need for caffeine, but so did the rest of America. By the end of WWII, drip coffee was as ubiquitous to American meals as ever.
Pre-made kinds of pasta got their start as lunch items for the American military. During WWII, Big Military tapped a restaurant in Cleveland to produce their canned food as part of military rations, which helped launch what we now know as Chef Boyardee.
As you’re enjoying your pre-made pasta, why not add some Cheetos and Pringles to round out your snack and make it really decadent? Cheetos, America’s favorite bright orange corn-puffed snack, got their start during WWI when culinary industrialists figured out how to make shelf-stable, dehydrated cheese dust. Kraft Foods then sold the product to the Army, who used it on just about everything – pasta, sandwiches, eggs and yes, even potatoes.
The crunchy texture of Cheetos is addictive, for sure, but so too are Pringles. Pringles were born from a project between the Quartermaster Corps and the USDA to develop dehydrated potato flakes. The entire goal of Pringles was to find a way to dehydrate the flakes and then, later on, form them into chips.
Speaking of lunch, what’s a sandwich without sliced bread? Thanks again to a partnership between the Quartermaster Corps and Kansas State, now we no longer have to worry about bakery bread going stale before we can enjoy it. Supermarket bread stays fresh because of bacterial enzymes that tolerate the heat of baking and can live for weeks, helping to keep bread fresh and soft.
Dinners and Sweet Treats
Bomber crews on long overseas flights during WWII needed something to eat, so an Army contractor invented the earliest iteration of what we now know as TV dinners. These nascent iterations were pretty basic and didn’t have much flavor, but they kept the bomber crews from going hungry.
After that TV dinner, why not enjoy a handful of MMs? These candy-coated chocolates were first introduced in WWII, so service members could carry chocolate with them during warmer weather.
These snacks might not be on your go-to meal list for every meal, but it’s still an amazing bit of culinary history to know that many of the snacks we love today got their start as rations for the military.