Rooney On Rations

Are They Better?

A weekly commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney:

No one who's ever been in the Army is ever going to forget the food. The room in which soldiers eat isn't called the mess hall for no reason.

I got thinking about what soldiers in the field in Afghanistan are eating. They aren't allowing reporters to see much of anything we're doing over there, so the Army was good enough to send us some field rations to show you.

This is an old WW II K-Ration. I remember these well: biscuits, lemon juice powder, luncheon meat, that was famous Spam, D-Ration chocolate bar, sugar, chewing gum, cigarettes, matches and toilet paper.

These are today's rations: chicken cavatelli, beef stew, even vegetarian ration. This is the one I'm opening Spaghetti with meat sauce. Got an amazing lot of stuff in here. Sometimes I think the packaging is probably better than the food. But look at all this stuff, it's like Christmas morning. These are Charms. That seems wrong to have a commercial product like that. Maybe Charms gives them to the Army in exchange for the advertising. Peanut butter crackers. It says freshly roasted peanuts. They're probably three years old. What difference does it make whether the peanuts are freshly roasted or not. This is for heating: you open this up and pour water in it. There's a package down here and there's some chemical reaction that takes place and then you wrap it around whatever you are trying to heat and it gets it hot. Very nice.

This little package has Tasters Choice coffee, sugar, moist towelette, fake cream, cream substitute, toilet paper, Chicklettes, and look at this great little thing a bottle of Tabasco sauce. And this is the piece de resistance here: spaghetti with meat sauce. I don't know what this is going to be like. I'm going to cut it with a pair of scissors, which you wouldn't have in the field. Oh, I guess you have to add water to that, wouldn't you. Oh, I don't know. Here it is; does that seem appealing to you? They didn't give you a fork, but I feel obliged to try this for the interests of show business. Not bad, not good. I see why they give you the Tabasco sauce.

This is the latest thing: the Army calls it a pocket sandwich that will last for three years. This one is barbecued chicken. See what that looks like: I don't know about barbecued.

This is a pepperoni pocket sandwich made in June, 2000. Two years old, that's not so bad. We've got some mystery stuff in our refrigerator that's older than that. Once I put something in the freezer, it's practically immortal.

I'd like to invite Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to come to have lunch with us here at 60 MINUTES some day.

Says Rumsfeld: "Not a chance."

We could feed him three-year-old chicken sandwiches.