The relationship between an army and the food it eats is long and tumultuous. Military food needs to be enduring, transportable, and palatable, and the latter is often the first requirement discarded. GIs in World War II frequently complained about their “C” rations and the exotic alternate explanations for the acronym of current USA army rations, the MREs, include such things as “Morsels, Regurgitated, Eviscerated” and “Meals, Rarely Edible.” The actual meaning, “Meal, Ready to Eat” seems commonplace by comparison.

At the same time, however, food is comfort, and long has been. The chance to eat something warm or drink something hot has long been one of the few breaks a soldier might get in the trenches or in combat. A friend, who was a British army officer in the 1990s, recalled patrolling the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and being pinned down by an IRA sniper. As his unit lay flat under a line of bushes, with rainwater filtering through the leaves, his sergeant tugged at his arm. The NCO had gotten a small portable stove going and was boiling water on it. “Cup of tea, sir?” the sergeant asked.

The New York Times does a nice job of laying this out in America’s current wars, including an explanation of “Combat Espresso”:

“Combat espresso,” on the other hand, is brutal. The creamer, instant coffee and sugar are poured directly into one’s mouth and then washed down with water.

Starbucks, it isn’t, but solace sometimes comes in strange packages.