Seven Spices for the Road

One thing I learned as my time as a grunt–EAT WELL.

I have to laugh when modern-day explorers or weekend recreationist complain about the lack of variety in food. Stud, when I deployed out- we only had 12 choices of meals for an entire deployment. If you could see me squeezing my thumb and index finger together, you might mistake it for the world’s smallest violin…actually its 10,000 lbs of compressed give-a-crap.

This last week I was sorting through old…really old stuff as I was reorganizing the garage. I found my collection of spices in a 30-round magazine pouch. Each spice neatly packed in what we now know to be highly hazardous 35mm film canister. When its MRE’s, box-nasties, or the odd K-Ration, a guy has got to add something to make things in best case different–in worse case…palatable.

Inside the ammo pouch I found the following spices I threw in my ruck and still use for the backcountry-


OK- not a spice, but a main ingredient for all grunts. It can make the most rancid field ration go down good. Perfect for powdered eggs and “Cookie’s” special chow. Still use it today for most of my meals.


Spices up anything from lame potatoes to hot cocoa. I used it extensively when working with the Germans in the late 80’s. Was great since everything was based on potatoes.


I picked this up from the Brits- and though not a huge fan, I like it in some of the boil and serve meals for backpacking. Some say with sugar it is good for post meal deserts. OK…not going to try…


We used to get served sludge in place of coffee. I swear there has to be some kind of machismo or street cred for making the absolute worse coffee. I faked two habits while serving. One was smoking and the other was drinking sludge. The first was because you could get a break from guard duty or out of formation to go smoke. I carried cancer sticks to either get a chance to get off post or to socialize with the locals. The second vice, drinking sludge was a survival mechanism in cold weather. A warm cup of crap will heat the insides. It definitely goes better with cinnamon. Grunts don’t do creme and sugar.

Also great with oatmeal. The rations were so bad on a deployment one time that I ate oatmeal for nearly every meal for 45 days. My nickname was ACME…for the brick company

Italian Seasoning

Great for any pasta you bring with you to add to the mix or the stuff packed in an MRE. Will do wonders for camp food as well.


I became addicted to Garlic while stationed at Ft Dix, where ticks were horrible. I ate so much that Vampires and Vixen’s alike repelled me. Great for unsalted potatoes.

Taco Spice

Yep, the stuff you mix with ground beef for a fiesta meal. I will add this to anything meant to be consumable. Great for taking to Asia when you need a different flavor in your diet.

Taking extra spices with you is a way to make some very creative meals. It will also make you very popular when your crew is pushing the same foods down the gullet everyday.

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