This was my first IMP, and my first international ration. It was from 2006. I acquired it in a trade with Ntfd_3. It came packed in what looks like a small paper grocery store shopping bag. The bag, while certainly not as water and gas tight as an MRE bag, is stronger than it looks. It's lined inside with heavy foil. The contents were packed very tightly and compactly. The main entree and fruit were silver foil bags manufactured by Freddy Chef. Several of the other components were off the shelf commercial products, which makes me question their long term longevity based on what I've seem with such products in older MREs. Some components are packed in a while paper (foil backed) envelope. In addition to the veal and a bag of peaches, there was a bag with bread, one with mashed potatoes, two of instant coffee, one of mango fruit beverage powder, two packs of coffee, matches and two packs of tea "whitener" (we call it creamer). Besides this, there are commercial packages of Lipton Cup-A-Soup (tomato with croutons), fig newtons, two packs of strawberry jam, two packs of teriyaki sauce, two packs of sugar, salt, pepper, a hard candy, and a moist towelette. In addition, there are two paper cards. One is the list of ingredients for the entree. The other is a fold out pamphlet that forms a postcard. It is a survey to be returned to the National Combat Ration Program. Finally, one finds a white plastic spoon, a large brown paper napkin (woefully missing from the MRE), and a toothpick.
I need to preface my review with the admission that I still haven't consumed the entire IMP. It's a big meal, and one not easily consumed in the field. More on that later.
I first ate the veal and the bread. Following the instructions on the packages, I put a large pot of water on to boil When it was boiling, I dropped in the entree pouch and the bread package. I boiled them the recommended amount of time to heat them. When they were ready, I took them out and opened them. The veal with mushroom sauce was wonderful. The meat was good, and was in a rich cream style sauce loaded with mushrooms. There was a hint of lemon in the sauce. While the meal appeared to contain less meat than an MRE entree, the sauce made it very filling. Perhaps the reason for the difference is regional. In a cold climate, a meat dish with a thick and rich sauce would be very satisfying. I very much enjoyed the entree. It was quite flavorful, probably more so than an MRE. I've heard good things about the IMP bread before and I now know why. The bread is good, far better than Wheat Snack Bread from an MRE. It is lighter, more like a leavened bread though still somewhat stale. Considering the bread was baked about three years ago, I can't find much fault in that. The bread is about like the small roll we get in the US with fried chicken. I ate some with the mushroom sauce, and the rest with one pack of strawberry jam. It was great both ways.
Some time later, I ate the peaches. While they were typical of canned peaches, they tasted a little fresher than canned. I haven't eaten any of the rest yet, but I will. In the trade, Ntfd_3 generously included some extra packages of beverages and cereals. When the box arrived at the office, we tried some of them and they were very, very good. The cereal was very good, very rich tasting. All you have to do is add hot or cold water to it, as it contains powdered milk. It is what we call oatmeal. The beverages were also quite good, each being one of various fruit flavors like mango and peach.
This brings me to the one thing I didn't like about the IMP. It is not very portable. There is no flameless ration heater included. Most of the meal can be eaten cold, or heated in a pot of boiling water. My most common uses for rations are when I don't have cooking facilities. When I'm on a hike or working out in the field, I don't have a pot or stove, and usually don't have the ability to build a fire to heat the meal. Ntfd_3 told me of laying the packages out in the sun to warm them, or keeping them next to his body for some time to warm them in cold weather. While they can be used in MRE flameless ration heaters if you have one available, it would take some folding to get the entree into the heater. The Freddy Chef package is wider than a FRH envelope. Considering their original intention, I see this as a disadvantage for a soldier in combat. It's not always possible or advisable to build a fire and boil a pot of water just to heat a meal. In addition to heating the entree, potable boiling water is also required to prepare the soup and mashed potatoes. One interesting note - the mashed potato package also suggests adding salt and one of the "coffee and tea whitener" packages to the potatoes. The pictures I've seen of troops eating IMPs show them in large groups standing around a cook heating a big pot of water on a stove. If you have that much cooking equipment, you might as well cook a real meal. The IMP doesn't seem to be as self-sufficient as the MRE. Considering the packaging, the MRE also appears better able to handle the rigors of combat. In appearance, the IMP package looks like the bag lunches we were given in school on early dismissal days.
The flavors are excellent. Perhaps that is because of cultural differences. Veal with mushroom sauce might be a typical meal to a Canadian, but to me it is beyond a typical quick meal on the go. What I've tried of the rest of the components makes me think they're above the level of quality we see in our MREs. The only concerns I have are the more involved heating procedures, the longevity of the commercial products, and the less durable packaging. If you haven't tried an IMP, I highly recommend you do so if the opportunity presents itself.
If I could specify a perfect combat ration, I would definitely include the napkin, and so far the Canadian recipes are very good. A flameless ration heater I consider to be essential. That Canadian bread would certainly be on my list. I'm looking forward to trying the soup, but I do have reservations about how the commercial products will hold up. From what I've seen, the retort packaged items last far longer in long term storage than the store shelf packaged items.
I will post my comments on the rest of the components when I try them. I also have another meal to try and I will review that when I eat it.
Reviews of rations from abroad - British ration packs, EPA, IMP, RCIR, etc.
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