The Department of Defense, with its huge purse and huger paranoia, has long been a driver of technological advances. But none may be so momentous as this one: an unfrozen piece of pizza that stays edible for years. And years. Army Rangers and armchair generals, rejoice!
They call it the holy grail of ready-to-eat meals for soldiers: a pizza that can stay on the shelf for as long as three years and still remain good to eat.
Soldiers have been asking for pizza since lightweight individual field rations — known as meals ready to eat, or MREs — replaced canned food in 1981 for soldiers in combat zones or areas where field kitchens cannot be set up.
Researchers at a U.S. military lab in Massachusetts are closing in on a recipe that doesn't require any refrigeration or freezing.
"You can basically take the pizza, leave it on the counter, packaged, for three years and it'd still be edible," said Michelle Richardson, a food scientist at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Speaking from years of experience with MREs: Okay, whatever. I've never actually wanted a pre-fab pizza that desperately; "CHICKEN A LA KING" and "HAM SLICE," drowned in tiny Tabasco, were good enough for me. But if it'll take the place of the godawful "FRANKFURTERS, BEEF," I'm all for it.
Nevertheless, researchers at the Natick lab insist that soldiers have been clamoring for pizza, and so they've spent two years trying to get the long-lasting formula right. Why so long?
Scientists' efforts were long thwarted because moisture in tomato sauce, cheese and toppings migrated to the dough over time, resulting in soggy pizza that provided the perfect conditions for mold and disease-causing bacteria to grow.
Um, ew. How do you overcome that? Apparently with "humectants" in the sauce, plus a boost to the tomato sauce's acidity, plus adding iron filings to the bag to suck up any excess moisture. According to the AP, "David Accetta, a former Army lieutenant colonel and spokesman for the lab, tried the pizza and also liked it," which is great, because Army officers who now work as civilian flacks are completely impartial and just looking out for enlisted soldiers out in the field.
On the good side, even if the troops don't like it, this military-developed pizza will be a perfect addition to the doomsday bunkers of tea party preppers and the living-room floors of libertarian dudes who binge on online HALO games for three days with a Mason jar for bathroom breaks. Bon appetit, heroes!
[Photo credit: AP]