Peanut butter is an original superfood, a calorie-dense energy monster. It's also got a pretty impressive shelf life, built to last a few months in the pantry and then another subsequent three to four in the fridge before oil separation takes place. It's no surprise then that peanut butter has been an MRE staple (Meals, Ready to Eat—the Army's prepackaged meals) for the armed forces since way back.
More surprising is one dude on YouTube just ate Korean War-era peanut butter from an MRE and actually enjoyed it.
The video claims to show the brave host, Steve, consuming the "oldest peanut butter ever eaten." There's not really a way to verify if it was indeed the oldest ever—dig around an old-timer's pantry, and you might readily stumble upon something that predates the fall of the Berlin Wall, so who knows what's around—but at 61-years-old, it's gotta be up there.
"This peanut butter is the same age as my mom. Dude! It's fine!" says Steve, who goes by the handle Steve1989 MREinfo. Steve helps run MREinfo.com, a site all about… MREs, and films himself opening up and chowing down on vintage MREs for his YouTube channel. "It's freakin' 61-year-old peanut butter!"
Currently, the US Army's Natick Research Laboratories suggest that the maximum shelf life for modern MREs is 84 months when stored at an optimum temperature around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering the advances in food science since the middle of last century, it's probably safe to assume that a 1950s MRE that came in a can wouldn't last as long.
"Alright, now we've got some real gems this time," says Steve as we survey a collection of cans. "These things are actually B-units and accessory packets from [the] Korean War era, Ration Combat Individual. Yes, not Meal Combat Individual, but Ration Combat Individual, RCIs, which were the first US-made 24-hour ration."
The large, bulky cans were eventually abandoned as they took up too much space in packs and weighed too much. Some of the rations were labeled as "Accessory Packets" and contained cigarettes, matches, a water purification tablet, chewing gum, and toilet paper. As Steve opens up his two 1951 B-Units, we see nearly perfect salted crackers and packaged cocoa powder. Beneath, fruit on the bottom, lies seedless blackberry jam from the Boothe Fruit Company.
"Let's give it a whiff—smells nice," Steve says.
"Aww man, not cool. Look at that—the jam leaked. Bummer," Steve laments. "No wonder it kinda smelled a little fruity in there." He guesses the can burst due to heat, but chooses to dive in anyway.
"Hey, that tastes pretty good," he says, going back for more. "Man, I hope I don't get botulism from this. I don't have health insurance," he adds.
The cocoa powder isn't as exciting—"Aw man. No way…. It tastes like they took pool water and added hot chocolate to it"—but the real surprise comes in can number two, where a tin of peanut butter comes as a surprise, a little wink from Uncle Sam.
"Wait a second now… is that old peanut butter?" he asks. "Ok, now I'm excited," he confirms.
The peanut butter tin is labeled as "fortified" and was produced by Cinderella Foods in Dawson, Georgia and included in Steve's 1955 MRE. As he opens it with his trusty P-38 can opener, Steve's heart sinks as peanut butter oil spills around the edge.
"It's all separated and disgusting. Aww man… Oh, dude!"
But quickly Steve has a revelation that brightens things up.
"Wait a second… I'm eating the oldest peanut butter ever recorded, aren't I?"
And it's not bad.
"Why is this ok?" he asks. "It kind of tastes like two-year-old peanut butter or something."
He then adds, "It's not coating my throat, it's not swallowing my tongue. I've had nut cakes that are 30 years old, this is 61."
Many commenters were supportive. "I think I love this guy," wrote Megan Van Buskirk.
Others expressed concern. "Do you use a Geiger Counter on the food you purchase?" asked Paul Johnson.
Some people got angry. "Why u taste it, u are fcking disgusting," [sic] wrote Jungle Addiction EUW.
And others were nonplussed. "Oh, look you ate peanut butter," remarked Sierra Bird.
But harsh words don't bother Steve. "That was history right there, he said. "That's science too."
And as Steve points out, these are (sort of) in-demand rations. The cocoa, he says, can alone go for $20 online, a whole MRE for over $150. One seller is offering a tin of 1968 Cinderella peanut butter for $29, if you want to taste a bit of peanut butter history yourself.