Dmitriy T.M. sent in a New York Times slideshow of the contents of “MREs” from different countries.   MREs stands for “Meals Ready to Eat”; they are combat rations for soldiers. The rations are each some combination of comfort food, nutrition, and necessity.  And the different contents across countries reveal some interesting similarities and differences.

All MREs include some sort of meat, but the type and form of the meat vary, from meatballs to paté.  Meanwhile, almost all of the MREs include candy; it’s probably cheap, in the big scheme of things, to throw a few skittles, m&ms, or squares of chocolate, but what a treat it must be.  Likewise, the fruit-flavored beverages and tea must be a taste of home.  As for practicality, countries vary in whether they provide moist towelettes, toothpicks, tooth brushes.   Most offer matches; the U.S. includes toilet paper.

That said, the content of rations are also strikingly consistent.  I’ve love to see a flow chart tracing the development of MREs.  Were the logics for these rations developed in isolation?  Or were some countries influential over others?

These are my uneducated observations.  Feel free to offer more informed thoughts in the comments.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.