You've just marched for the best part of a day, lugging the equivalent of a moped in your pack. You're tired, homesick, and craving some comfort food. What better way to glut your hunger than on a freshly warmed slice of three-year-old pizza?
Stomach-clenching as that sounds, this long-life pizza is supposedly the 'holy grail' of military MREs (meals ready to eat). Ever since soldiers switched tinned food for individual field rations, the Italian classic has been near the top of the troops' wishlist.
After several years of "on-and-off" research (the US military has had bigger fish to fry - probably MRE fried fish), researchers at a US military lab in Massachusetts are closing in on a recipe for a pizza that stays "edible" for up to three years.
MRE manufacturers have long been stumped by the complexity of the humble pizza: the moisture of tomato, cheese, vegetable and meat toppings has a habit of seeping into the dough base, resulting in a bacteria-friendly mouthful. By tweaking ingredients to include more sugar, salt and syrups - which bind to the water and stop it ruining the dough - and increasing the overall acidity to put a stop to bacteria growth, an MRE pizza recipe is nearing completion.
‘‘It pretty much tastes just like a typical pan pizza that you would make at home and take out of the oven or the toaster oven,’’ lab research Jill Bates told Boston.com after tasting the latest prototype batch of pepperoni. ‘‘The only thing missing from that experience would be it’s not hot when you eat it. It’s room temperature.’’
With this morale-boosting snack nearing completion, we wonder what other dishes the military could extend the shelf life of. Five-year-cheesecake? The never-ending doughnut? We can but hope.