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Lunch with Ivan Amato

For soldiers MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) is just victuals in a vinyl bag, but for Ivan Amato, author of the book Stuff and managing editor of Chemical and Engineering News Jambalaya in an aluminum bag was just the beginning of a banquet of materials: vinyl, polyethylene. Ivan's first comment on ripping open his MRE is "What a waste" looking at all the packaging. But then he quickly became fascinated with all the "Stuff" inside the sand-colored bag. First was the FRH--flameless ration heater. The FRH has magnesium metal powder inside a plastic bag. Add water and the magnesium oxidizes fast, heating the water and the Jambalaya. I was eating Cajun rice and beans. We both had a metal pouch of cheese spread--Ivan thought it could be used as adhesive. I had crackers and he had wheat bread. We ate the cheese and carbs while we waited for the main course to heat up.

WHERE: It would be completely inauthentic to eat MREs indoors, so we ate at the mostly empty outside tables at Caribou coffee shop at 15th and M St. in Washington DC. The temp was mid-90s and the humidity about 50%. The smart people ate inside.

After cheese and crackers/wheat bread and the main course, neither of us ate desert, so Ivan's kids will be eating a chocolate energy bars, Skittles, and carrot cake for dessert tonight.

Anyway, it was interesting to see Ivan's view of all the materials that go into a meal that can withstand rough handling and bad weather and still, according to Ivan, taste good.

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