Why would anyone chow down on biscuits and chocolate produced and packaged in 1945 for soldiers fighting WWII? "Why not?" says YouTuber Steve1989. "This is what we do … I guess." Steve, last name withheld, is part of a small community of collectors (and tasters) of military rations called meals ready to eat (MREs), according to Atlas Obscura. (As for the taste of the septuagenarian cookies, of which he ate five, Steve says in his YouTube video: "That's pretty disgusting.") No matter their age, Atlas Obscura notes, "MREs are not known for their gourmet flavors." They generally contain an entrée, side, dessert, and snacks, along with utensils, drink mixes, and a heating device. (Vintage rations often included cigarettes, while some old Italian MREs came with a mini bottle of booze.)
There wasn't much of an MRE scene until 2003, when Kinton Connelly launched a website for himself and fellow enthusiasts. The North Carolina resident got into MREs in 1999 during preparation frenzy for the Y2K disaster that never materialized. "I’d seen them at various shows and army surplus stores," he tells Atlas Obscura. Y2K came and went, but Connelly's fascination with MREs grew. "When you open that can it’s a feeling of wonder and curiosity," he tells FOX News. "Rations even have their own unique smell.” These days, like-minded MRE enthusiasts—think former service members, preppers, people who got hooked watching YouTube taste tests—trade military rations, or buy them on eBay. US military rations aren't technically supposed to be sold to civilians, Connelly tells Atlas Obscura, but he says it's rare for MRE traders to get in trouble.