Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Rhodesia- Ration Packs; the ultimate truth!

Ratpacks or Ratz for short, were a fundamental part of nearly every combatant’s bowl movements on the White side. What the bad Black side ate is not of interest in this story. I gathered that the evil bastards simply shoved a rifle up a peasant’s nose and got served and serviced. (I never bothered with that stunt because I wasn’t that hot on boiled hukoo and sadza.)

Now, my Proof-reader told me he couldn’t be arsed going through this chapter, and recommended I delete it. So I did. Gone…puff - just like that (not), because you now may have this chapter to read. It is excruciatendely boring. Actually, that word doesn’t exist, but don’t pass a stone over it. Please add any of your own observations.

The description below is very thorough, but it contents might have passed through me with very little spice and so; read it and whilst you do…why not microwave a nice Indian Madras – there is nothing better than a good curry muncher…

Disclaimer and rightful claiming –

Please note that I retain the right to add your name, anecdotes, edited Emails or Facebook comments, for my own personal exploitation, either in my book or on my blog and website. (Here is the time to get famous hey! Albeit, less than 15 minutes…lol)

 Kind regards, Karl… Last of the Rhodesians

Eat, drink and be merry - for tomorrow you will be dead from food poisoning.

I had seen these boxes before. When I was 15 and had been visiting best-friend Stephanie Brooks, her brother Mike (who was doing his call-up with the army), would bring a couple of half empty ratpacks home with him during his R and R. (Rest and Recreation.) We had experimented with them in the kitchen and usually fed the dog with the results.
I just love children sized shoe boxes with little neatly packed mysteries in them. Sure enough there were lots of surprises. A quick look at the rest of my sticks ratpacks revealed that we had three different types of  ‘One Box, One Man, One Day’. Stamped on the side of each light brown cardboard box was a letter. C, G or H. The idea of this was to give everyone a change of diet everyday. Digging through the contents, it soon became clear that the initials actually stood for: Crap, Gore and Hideous.

Basically, all ratpack types would have the same stuff in them. The different types were due to the contents of the supplied tinned food and the kind of starch. A quick visual examination could be described so:
Common to all ratpacks -
1. A (my) palm sized, very sticky transparent plastic bag, filled with orange or green sugar. This was supposed to be ‘cool drink’. For some strange reason this bag always seemed to have burst and made the rest of the contents adhere to each other like super-glue. Once you had the stuff in a cup and applied water, you were treated with a vile taste resembling nothing like oranges or lime, and a mass of wet, semi-dissolved sugar swirling around at the bottom.
2. Another transparent bag, about half the size of the sticky one, which looked alarmingly like it contained four teaspoons of dried semen. In fact, it was supposed to be milk powder that you combined with the next two bags.
3. A small bag of cigarette tar, the same size as the semen bag, which appeared as having been scraped out of the lungs of a chain smoker. This was the coffee! When boiling water is added you spent some time twirling a defoliated twig in it (no teaspoons), and then you shook in some sugar and milk powder. The milk powder flatly refused to dissolve, and immediately gathered in small lumps on the surface and no amount of twirling could get them to do their proper job of integrating with its dark brother. (See! – Black and Whites don’t mix well!) When it came to drinking the stuff, the lumps would stick to your teeth and when you bit into them, you were rewarded with the sensation of chewing on a sweaty sock.
4. A bag of off-white sugar the same size as the ‘cool drink’.
5. A packet of four bullet-proof, light brown oblongs that fitted neatly into your top breast pocket around the heart area. These were biscuits or hardtack as they are correctly known, and are made from wheat flour, salt and water and then baked extremely hard. The things could last for years and were almost indestructible. It was claimed they could stop a bullet, that’s why we kept them in our shirt pocket. They were close to inedible and attempting to eat them without being softened in the ‘coffee’, you had a good chance of breaking all your teeth.
6. A bag, same size as the sticky stuff, resembling salted small white pebbles. Well, they were as hard as pebbles, but not quite as hard as the biscuits. These were peanuts. Not the nice Willards roasted type that you bought in the supermarket, these were the rejects. These were the nuts that fell on the floor whilst they were being pulled out of their shells. They were left to lie there for weeks till they became rock hard. Now they were so devoid of moisture, that whilst attempting to chew them, they set like concrete as soon as it had collected every drop of saliva in your mouth. You then used the twiddle stick from the coffee to pry the soapy tasting muck from the roof of your mouth where it had decided to take up permanent residence.
7. An aluminium, unmarked toothpaste tube, but filled with some stinking green/yellow pus. Inside was an incredibly greasy load of semi-rancid margarine. This tube obeyed Murphy’s Law every time it was squeezed. Instead of coming out the narrow hole exposed after removing the screw top, it instantly unravelled its rear end and fired its rotten guts all over your combat trousers. Since you couldn’t eat the biscuits, you now used them to scrape the greasy gunk from your crotch, leaving a lovely large stain. Since the stuff ponged so bad, you wouldn’t dream of cooking with it, so it got promptly chucked. Even the ants gave the stinking glob a wide berth.
8. Some huge yellow salty pills. These were to be taken every day to combat salt loss due to excessive sweating. They tasted vile.
9. A box of Lion matches. Besides for making foja (fire) they could be used as tooth picks and ear cleaners. My mate Addie used them as weapons. He had this very annoying habit that after he lit up a fag, he would place the used stick in the crook of his folded first finger and then use his thumb to flick it into your face.
One interesting thing about this box of matches was the logo. As little boys do, it had become common knowledge that if a thumb was placed over the lion’s head, keeping its mane visible, the body now resembled a semi-erect penis that had just ejaculated. 

Starch Options
1. A bagged handful of off-white, rock hard, wedding confetti. This was rice. Not the kind Uncle Ben would eat. The stuff took ages to cook, drank water like a fish and because there was no sieve available - it tended to turn into mush. If you added the sugar and the milk-powder it became the world’s worst rice pudding.
2. A bagged handful of yellowish hard tubes resembling a gutted cheap ballpoint pen, now chopped into finger tip sized bits. Officially it was called macaroni, but any resemblance to its Italian origins was lost in translation. When mixed with milk-powder and sugar, it just beat the rice pudding in the competition of the worst things you can put into your mouth without gagging.

The Tin Options
Each tin was approximately 200grams (7 ounces) and had no paper labels. Upon opening them, the strange contents could be one of the following –
1. A blue boiled egg, some badly cloned Heinz type beans, and a dwarf’s circumcised penis, otherwise known as a cocktail sausage. This was the ultimate in bad eggs, so to speak, because the egg, which took up 80% of the tin, stank like a stink bomb and looked the same colour of a freshly hung corpse’s bloated face. It sat ponging away in some orangey coloured sauce that had a few brave beans wallowing in it whilst the baby sized dick hid under it.
We were actually warned about these tins. We were not to open them if the tin ends looked suspiciously like they were being pushed out from the inside. This unique feature in tinned food was due to the fact that the egg had finally come of age, and the frenzied bacteria that were happily eating it had farted so much, that the bulging ends would erupt imminently. There were rumours that the Selous Scouts, a unique fighting unit, would use them as grenades against the Gooks.
2. Frankenfarters.  These deathly pale objects were called this because they resembled Frankenstein’s fingers - after the nails had been neatly guillotined off and the bones pulled out. They smelt like they had been breeding in a swamp and once ingested they tended to produce abdominal gas that a Gook could smell from a click away.
3. More tiny penises, drowning in a thick orange swamp full of dodgy beans. This was really the same as the tin with the egg, but without it. This moved the food from inedible to barely edible.
4. An occasional and rare imported tin of Pilchards in tomato sauce and on the most wanted list. They tasted so lekker they would be traded for promised blind-dates with fellow recruits’ virgin sisters. Judging by some of the ugly buggers we had with us, you would have to be blind to date any of their sisters… or mothers for that matter.

Now certain members of our trainee buddies in arms were wise to the fact that ratpacks are used only in desperation. Jan, our leader was way ahead on that scale. His sausage bag really was full of swag. Out came real tins of just about any produce available in the shops and he soon had himself a regular feast prepared. Why hadn’t I thought of going shopping before we went on COIN? That was because I flatly refused to use my pay to feed my-self. I would rather starve… and so I did.
Another clever device Jan had brought with him was called a tin opener. An amazing device that could open tins! I hadn’t thought of bringing one of these either.  His was a SAP issue, a tiny folding hook type metal thingy, that hung around his neck on a shoestring. A little larger than a thumb, it was a flat piece of hardened steel with a folding flat blade. With leverage, the punctured tins contents would slowly be exposed. We now had to queue to open our food. Meanwhile, ‘Poor old Guy’, in frenzied desperation, had thrown his tin numerous times at one of the huge granite rocks that dotted around our ‘camp site’ until it burst its guts all over the show and then scraped the stuff into his aluminium ‘cooking’ pot…
So, after an excellent evening meal under the magnificence of the southern hemispheres’ stars, we went happily (not) to bed…


Anonymous said...

Karl... that's one of the funniest (and best) descriptions of the contents of a rat pack I've ever read. You forgot the curry powder which tasted like burnt public hair but was marginally better than the baked beans so was liberally mixed in; the creamed chicken (clotted mboro cheese)and the naarjies (nice).
I used to take pre-organised mini bags of mixed Pronutro/milk powder to get through the day.
As a 16-yr-old BSAP kadonk I went on boat patrol out of Paradise Island (Bumi Hills) and remember swapping the margarine and jam tubes for huge blue-nosed bream with the Vadoma tribesmen. They’re also known as the ostrich people as they have weird feet resembling a three-toed ostrich.
Keep it coming China! Nick 9596 (Downunder these days).

Anonymous said...

Lol - brilliant story - remember the boyfriend at the time bringing home the left over rat packs - and as for the Lion Matches -our very juvenile joke was " Where's Pa ? On Ma " Eish - used to think that was sooooooo funny , though probably didnt really know what it meant - eish - lol Stll , been wondering how we could have done it with the pic you have attached but have googled it , and was possible with the boxes we had in Rhodie days ...

food solutions said...

You could certainly slurp down some of the MRE Entrees on the move. Might be a mess, but Chili with Beans, Sloppy Joe, etc. could definitely be eaten cold, out of the corner of the pack. Some of the Entrees are in bigger chunks that wouldn't be conducive to eating that way. The First Strike Rations are hard to come by -- they are purely military issue, and to my knowledge aren't readily commercially available. ration MREs meals ready-to-eat