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It has been mentioned before that the basement of my old house contained some strange things, usually pertaining to food.  The most famous example (and by "most famous" I mean the only one I can remember) would be the awful assortment of soda I was able to unearth from there.


When my family was moving to another state, I did my best do help them out.  This mostly consisted of me rummaging around the house looking for things I wanted to take.  My ransacking was limited mostly to the basement.  Digging through the shelves of food long since forgotten about, I felt like an explorer.  I was Indiana Jones, except instead of digging for crystal skulls with which I would disappoint my fan base, I was moving dusty jars around looking for mysterious edibles. 


From doing so much food shopping now, I realize how much I took this basement for granted.  Have you seen how much wheat germ costs?  Of course you haven't; no one buys wheat germ besides my family and probably twelve other people.  Well, it's expensive.


What made the basement's goods so plentiful was the fact that my dad never has the slightest idea of what we have in the house.  When he would go to BJ's, he would buy another 12 pack of paper towels, another gallon of shampoo, another 100 pack of "Good News" Razors (that name being rather ironic given the fact that my neck never receives the news as such), and so on.


Another object taking up room in our basement was a rather large blue barrel.  It was supposed to do something related to water: filtering, removing iodine, or another cleaning-related function.  The reason this large blue obstruction was in our basement was so that we could survive in a post-apocalyptic world after Y2K. 


Oh yeah I should mention that he bought into the Y2K fears, big time.  If you weren't paying attention around this time (the year 2000), no nuclear wars broke out as a result of computer errors, and no civilizations had to result to cannibalization due to the ConAgra plant's inability to produce Kid Cuisine.


I'm not quite sure what level of chaos he thought the world would be brought to.  We would need to survive on food rations as a result of nuclear explosions, yet we didn't need a bomb shelter?


Regardless, I got used to seeing the big blue barrel in the basement, and never really questioned why we kept it.  When helping my family move, I saw the other Y2K emergency supplies we had, including pills that helped cure radiation (which I'm assuming didn't work), as well as emergency food rations.


I've always been kind of interested in dehydrated camping or MRE type foods.  Those things that promise delicious pot roast just by pouring boiling water in a bag, yet probably wind up looking like what happens when you forget to reduce the power to 50% when cooking TV dinners.


Unfortunately, we didn't have any delicious dehydrated beef stew, or even Astronaut ice cream that you know is disgusting but still think is pretty cool.  All we had were frightening blocks of "Emergency Rations".  Even though they weren't pretty, they were still emergency food, so I felt compelled to try them.  For science.



The rations come packed in a vacuum sealed, red package.  In a large font is the company's name, DATREX, which is pretty frightening.  It sounds like the name of a company that would be pumping raw sewage into lakes.


In case you wouldn't be willing to eat something that was not approved by the US Coast Guard, don't worry, this is.  All other approvals are currently pending, which really makes the Coast Guard seem a bit loose with their approvals, but I guess that's just how they were raised.



The label also has instructions on how to eat a bar of food.  In case you were unsure.


Another fun fact the label offers is that we should not drink sea water.  I realized I should never do this when I was about six, and got some in my mouth at the beach.  I also realized this later on when I was in Hawaii, and didn't really have a choice as the violent waves forced about a quart down my throat, forcing me to later vomit.  So don't worry about the sea water warnings.  I'm good.



You are also told not to drink water in the first 24 hours after an emergency, unless you are sick or in a desert.  Or if you are thirsty, I guess, although it doesn't specify.  It also says it is best to not to drink more than two cups a water a day.  So I'll be fine during an emergency, since I normally don't drink this much water.  As long as there's soda, I'll be fine.


Upon opening the package, I am met with a rather gross looking block of "food".  It looks sort of like those healthy breads you see, that are very compressed and are almost like chewy melba toast.  Sorry for the awful comparison.  I don't know much about what I'm comparing it to, but I know that it looks like whatever it is I'm talking about. 



It also sort of looks like when you eat a bowl of cereal from the bottom of the box.  Since you pour in all the cereal crumbs and powder, the milk at the end turns into this muddy slop.  That is what this looks like.  So feel free to ignore that terrible healthy bread comparison.


One thing that is immediately noticeable is a greasy, slimy texture to the block of food.  It also smells like coconut.  Not real coconut, more like a coconut shampoo.  I'm not too worried about surviving the night, so instead of dividing it into the correct serving size, I just dig in and take a bite.


It is at this point that I realize the food is sealed in cellophane.


In all fairness, if the food is still sealed, why is the outside greasy?  To aid removal from the foil wrapper?  Now to get to the food, I need to use a knife to open the block.  I'll need a knife in an emergency anyway, to fend off coyotes and hobos, so I'm not worried about the tricky ration packaging.


The fairly appealing smell is still pretty unexpected.  I don't know what smell I was expecting, but it wasn't coconut.  When you are desperate for just enough calories to live another day, who is expecting a tropical delight? 


After inspecting the ingredients, the reason for the smell becomes apparent.  The list is also refreshingly short: wheat flour, vegetable shortening, cane sugar, water, coconut, and salt.  No weird chemicals, everything seems normal. 


The entire block of food isn't that big, and each serving measures about 1.5 inches by 2.5 inches, and .5 inches thick.  Like a novelty size deck of cards.  And at 200 calories, I don't know how long you would be surviving by eating this.  I don't know what I was expecting, I guess some crazy scientific marvel that packed 2,000 calories into a single bite.


When I tasted the ration, I immediately wished there were more chemicals and artificial flavorings.  While it smelled like coconut, it certainly didn't taste like it.  It tasted like how Jack Johnson music sounds.  Is that a current reference?  I haven't noticed if he has gone away yet.


The taste wasn't bad, it just tasted... there.  It was no coconut granola bar, but at the same time it wasn't human flesh.  As far as survival food goes, it wasn't bad.


I certainly don't envision DATREX bars replacing Kudos in lunch boxes any time soon.  It may be all natural, but even the most strict parents probably won't force their children to make the switch. 


The nutritional facts don't make it seem like this would last very long in your system.  It seems like you'd get the same benefits from eating a handful of All Bran and a couple spoonfuls of Crisco.  Whether or not that is more convenient to keep in your glove compartment or bomb shelter is up to you.


Hm.  When scanning the label to get inspiration for a closing statement, I noticed the expiration date was 9/04.  I just assumed that emergency rations last indefinitely, I certainly wasn't expecting it to expire five years after production. 


I'm pretty sure that the Creme Savers I have in my car have been in there for at least ten years, and they still taste good.  Let this be a lesson to you all: natural food is inferior to chemicals and artificial flavors.


Now I don't fear a nuclear war as much.  At least I would finally be able to finish that bag of Creme Savers.  I'm kind of sick of the strawberry  flavor.



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