Thursday, January 19, 2012

Army Crackers

Yesterday I opened the Pandora box with some memories of my youth. The memories are actually about the worst bread I've ever eaten, military service period included in "ever". Now, I'm not going to do the "during the war" routine on you, but in the end the only benefit from doing your time in the army is to annoy your friends and trying to bore them to death by telling them very juicy barracks stories. This is what your friends want, and nothing more.

Anyway, during the war, the life you experience in the army is nothing compared to what you're used to. You do not belong to yourself there, you belong to the institution, then to the country, and in the end to the CAUSE, whatever that is. Imagine you hear such a crappy speech almost every single day from someone who's just finished half a liter bottle of vodka and you're not even close to smell the tediousness to follow.

Very soon, after having used the one way access to the barracks, carrying your wooden suitcase (just some culture thing, so no one would break into your belongings) you get acquainted to the rules in the army. You might find it strange, but that was an inexhaustible supply of good humour. You realise in an instant that those people have absolute no sense of the written words whatsoever (spoken ones were even worse). I don't recall all the nonsense we read, but one definitely caught my attention: Committing of SELF suicide is strictly forbidden. Well, you get to understand, it's the army there, not so many choices left, if you really really must commit some suicide, you'll need to do it on somebody else.

And so went all the obligations and the right of the soldiers to be. There is no typo here, the word "right" must be kept in the singular form, as the soldier, who will be called a private from now on, had only one right: to lose his hair. Maybe that's why they draft you when you're young, so you can exert your right then, when you still have hair. True story here: they used the threat with cutting our hair bald so often but no one gave a shit and one day we came up in the morning with heads like a lamp bulb. We did it ourselves, so no more childish crap.

Then came what it really hit us. The food. I'm keeping for myself what was the worst food in there but, through the weeks, you realise that there's a kind of some pervert equilibrium with your eating habits. You seem to cope with the daily quota whilst you carry with you a constant hunger that would certainly help you eat half a pig in one go, should you get the chance to do it.

However, the first days were ok. We still had some civil provisions that we used, as well as a residual layer of fat from home (although at that age you don't see anything like that on your body). And just before these days were about to be finished, something appeared among us. It was in one of the breaks during the drill when we got something. A present from the army. We got some packs, the size of the a carton of cigarettes, only that the cardboard was totally white and cheap. Inside the packs, some crackers, biscuits, whatever. Simple and rectangular. We were told, with their eternal fucking smug face, that the crackers were also emergency provisions. Wow, we were so moved indeed. We just grabbed them and started to eat them like the kids eat the candies when they get to the whole jar.

In no more than 2 minutes we conceded the battle with the crackers. We could not eat them, full stop. Loads of questions popped up in our mind, the most popular being by miles "What the fuck are these?" and we concluded that they were made of clay and the army played a trick on us. Surely they ran some bets on who's going to break a tooth first or something of the kind.

Then we tried to be cunning. If you think of breaking the bloody things into small pieces, forget about that! We surrendered for a moment, we would take them next morning to the mess room and soak them in the tea. Then we could eat them. That must be the purpose of these crackers, to get softer first.

Next morning, the plan was materialised. We kept the buggers in the hot tea for about 1/2 hour and expected some slushy stuff to come out. Well, after half and hour, the crackers were in the same state. Not even a slightly bit softer. We gave up completely under the solemn promise that we would never eat such things ever in our life.

One week later, in one of the breaks, we were playing cards and indulging ourselves in the delicious crackers that the army provided to us, in what it appeared to be smaller and smaller supply. Everyone developed his own technique to eat those, no one complained anymore, no tooth broken, no tea needed, just the plain clay crackers. And in that busy environment, one guy had nothing better to do and started to read the tacky package of our tasty crackers. And when it came to the best-before date, he felt the urge to share it to us all. I'm not kidding at all, the expiration date was explicitly printed : "Unlimited".

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