Call for Entries: The Ultimate Food Shoot Challenge
February 27, 2006 5:52 PM   Subscribe

"Call for Entries: The Ultimate Food Shoot Challenge. The idea is simple, take one of the gray and eerie government meal packets ... unpack it, arrange it, light it and shoot it to look as scrumptious as it could ever hope to be.

As you can see... in the right hands, this can be done with remarkable grace."

Evidently the images will be used for a 2007 calendar, with proceeds to benefit The People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition. Registration deadline April 15.
posted by cloudscratcher (30 comments total)
Nice...but it doesn’t help if you know what it tastes like.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:56 PM on February 27, 2006

Meh. Those shots that are done with remarkable grace were shot with a Sinarback 54 back. It goes for anywhere between $15k and $30k. That's 22 megapixels. When you figure in whatever camera that back was attached to (my money's on a Hasselblad), it seems like unfair competition for my lil' 3-megapixel Canon.
posted by mullingitover at 6:02 PM on February 27, 2006

Nice, but lets see what they can do with Russian rations.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:04 PM on February 27, 2006

neither of those look even vaguely appetizing.
posted by lapolla at 6:08 PM on February 27, 2006

Maxim had a taste test between various nations' MREs a while ago. I think the French and Norwegian grunts were supposed to have it best, with America in the middle and England losing out.

Nice to see the US MRE's don't resemble bomblets any longer.
posted by bardic at 6:10 PM on February 27, 2006

I'd rather eat this

posted by beerbajay at 6:14 PM on February 27, 2006

I've worked with many food stylists for photo shoots. Even the least talented among them could have put together much better shots than the two linked. The terrible depth of field effect and the vaguely dirty looking bowl of spaghetti in the first shot actually make me feel a little ill... Also, that little piece of...whatever it is floating in the coffee is nasty.
posted by Chrischris at 6:16 PM on February 27, 2006

So sorry, but nothing, I mean *nothing* can make Bloody Worms look appetizing.

Though, in DOD's defense, the MRE is far better than what historically passed as military rations, and they have been working to make them better as the years have gone by, and many of the truly horrid ones are long gone.

BTW, the Boneless Pork Chop was last made in 2001. With it as meal 2, and Bloody Worms as 20, the linked meals date from 1999 to 2001.


Apparently, the trick with current MREs is simple.

1) Tobasco sauce.

2) Lots more of 1).
posted by eriko at 6:16 PM on February 27, 2006

It's nice that the arrangers even incorporated the two little white suicide tablets.
posted by ontic at 6:21 PM on February 27, 2006

It's nice that the arrangers even incorporated the two little white suicide tablets appetizers.
posted by eriko at 6:23 PM on February 27, 2006

It's an interesting premise for a photo contest, but for a fundraising calendar? Not so much. Remarkable or no, these would make me gag everytime I looked at the calendar - that food looks nasty.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:33 PM on February 27, 2006

I actually think MREs taste pretty good.

Well, at least, they tasted good when the blackhawk would finally dump me back home after a 16-hour shift dodging mortar rounds at brigade HQ in Sadr City, long after the chow hall had closed and long before it opened again, and I was starving because I'd had neither lunch nor dinner and all that was there is a pallet of MREs right outside my hooch. At that point, nothing in the universe tasted better than a cold beef burrito eaten right from the wrapper.

However, I don't think MREs are nutritionally balanced for the (probably mostly sedentary) Hurricane Katrina survivors. MREs are targeted at young adults who engage in a lot of physical activity.
posted by xthlc at 6:37 PM on February 27, 2006

posted by growabrain at 6:56 PM on February 27, 2006

Serving suggestion? Here's a step-by-step MRE review.

Chrischris is right: the examples are poorly done. Food photographed under a single, hard light source looks pretty unappetizing. The pros suggest that you get large soft lights and start playing with your food.
posted by cenoxo at 6:58 PM on February 27, 2006

Mod note: tucked away giant bucket of puppies image
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:10 PM on February 27, 2006

Were there ever any MRE trading cards?
posted by greatgefilte at 8:04 PM on February 27, 2006

MREs are targeted at young adults who engage in a lot of physical activity.

Being in the air force national guard, we all seems to gain a few extra pounds whenever we spend a week eating MRE's straight. But oh boy, that cheese spread is a little packet of heaven.
posted by Mr Mister at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2006

Neat idea. Failed execution. Still looks like crap on a nice plate. Doesn't look like they tried anything other than nice lighting and nice table settings. Hoping someone can actually take this ball and run with it.
posted by qwip at 9:03 PM on February 27, 2006

Hey, look, you can polish turds!

Oh, wait. Maybe not.
posted by loquacious at 9:21 PM on February 27, 2006

"unpack it, arrange it, light it and shoot it to look as scrumptious as it could ever hope to be."

Oh, I could *SO* easily do better than these shots... wouldn't need that expensive of a camera to do it, either.

The trick, I think, is to change the context and focus of the shot. rather than paying attention to a frontal picture of a plate full of slop, have the focus be on a candlelit table with a sparkling glass of champagne, with the food merely a nice soft blur in the foreground...

Or, better yet, take the MRE, mash the hell out of it until it looks like a curry, and surround it with a wonderful Indian buffet, with naan and some rich, earthy colors in the decor... add in a cold bottle of Kingfisher in the background, and voila... it looks like food.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:51 PM on February 27, 2006

(grin) Hey, y'all, I did that MRE photo shoot in about twenty minutes on a boring Saturday afternoon, with a cheap-ass digital camera, while simultaneously recording the taste-test for my fledgling podcast.

I'm amused that it's received so much attention here, though.

(Jessamyn, you want Chow Chow puppy pictures? Good God, woman. Just drop me a line.)
posted by enrevanche at 11:03 PM on February 27, 2006

So many other things you can do to make it look better, too. Decorate the plate with elegant swirls of sauce, bright, thin juliennes of carrot... or pull back a little further from an outside table, so we can see a lovely view. Anything to avoid concentrating on the plate full of grey goo.

Think garnishing. *SERIOUS* garnishing.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:07 PM on February 27, 2006

Well, there you have it.

In today's exciting, scientific world of fuzzy computing and quantum logic I think it is more than reasonably fair and just to confirm that MREs = dogfood, as evidenced by the paralinguistic quantum entanglement of the main thread, Is it possible to make an MRE look appetizing?, cross-combinated with the metadata provided by the unofficial subthread, Buckets of puppies, chow, giant puppy, Chow Chow, puppy, puppy chow, giant chow puppy chow puppy. QED.

I once survived for a spell off of pre-MRE surplus canned rations. Great Scott! That peanut butter! What do they make it with? Camels? It was like chewin' on The Nuge. Not very tasty, and likely hazardous.
posted by loquacious at 12:57 AM on February 28, 2006

bardic, you are confusing the HDR with the MRE. HDRs were originally and unfortunately packaged in yellow, which was as you correctly pointed out the same color as the 'bomblets.' This was to make them easy to find after air dropping them. The MRE was designed for troop feeding and is supposed to be a little more subtle. The Wiki picture is pretty terrible, since the packaging is light tan, and not even close to being gray.
posted by fixedgear at 1:42 AM on February 28, 2006

Great, thanks! You just spoiled my apetite for the rest of the day. And, yes, if I could hold my breath long enough and stopped my hands from trembling uncontrolably, I could probably do a lot better than these photos myself.
posted by acrobat at 4:47 AM on February 28, 2006

After hurricane Rita hit, they were passing these things out like crazy in my neck of the woods. Really and truly I thought they weren't half bad, in an "omfg, it's a Meal Ready to Eat" kind of way. The terriyaki chicken tasted nothing like terriyaki chicken, but it was tasty. And besides, that suspicious-looking chemical heating pack is too cool.

OP: loquacious is right about the peanut butter though. And the grape jelly has the texture of sludge. I still ate both though :(
posted by kryptondog at 8:20 AM on February 28, 2006

When I was younger I came up with an alternate meaning for MRE: Meals Refused by Ethiopians.
posted by joecacti at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2006

Came up with that all by yourself, huh? Gee, I hadn't heard that in like 1990 when I started working for the DoD agency that buys and manages them.
posted by fixedgear at 9:21 AM on February 28, 2006

I used to be a nanny for a family in which both parents were military high-ups, they were always bringing these things home because the kids loved them. I personally liked the little tiny tabasco bottles. So cute. I think I still have about 50 of them somewhere.
posted by cilantro at 9:35 AM on February 28, 2006

A day on the Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal is a banquet.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:47 PM on February 28, 2006

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