The Military Engineered A Special Chocolate That Tasted Horrible
It's candy week at Cracked. Prepare for a sugar high.
Chocolate packs a bunch of energy super densely. That's not so great if you're looking to limit your calories, but it's great if you need those calories to survive. Say, if you're hiking in the mountains. Or if you’re waging war. Napoleon ate chocolate to keep his energy up. At the height of the British Empire, half the cacao beans that entered Britain went to chocolate for the Navy.
Some chocolates have special connections with the military. M&Ms were first made for the U.S. Army, because their candy coating kept them from melting when the fighting heated up. But all this chocolate had a major shortcoming. It tasted really, really good.
Good-tasting food is perfectly fine as part of a soldier's regular diet, of course. Preferable, even. But chocolate's energy density made it especially suitable as a part of a soldier's emergency rations, and when chocolate tastes better than anything else a soldier carries, well, you can hardly expect them to save it for emergencies. They'll eat it the first chance they get, and then when the emergency comes, they'll have nothing left but their own body's fat reserves.
So in 1937, the Army got the Hershey Company to make a special bar that would "taste a little better than a boiled potato." It used skim milk and oat flour, and it tasted bitter (and we don't mean the pleasing sweet bitter taste dark chocolate has). Plus, they engineered the chocolate to stay solid at temperatures of 120 degrees, even without a colored candy coating, and that meant a hard brick of a bar that you could barely bite into.
They called this the D ration bar. As a food soldiers were supposed to resist eating, it was a total success. It was so unappetizing, in fact, that many soldiers just discarded the bars instead of holding on to them for emergencies, so on second thought, it wasn't such a success at all. But soldiers did find one use for it. When they were besieged by local children asking for chocolate, chewing gum, and cigarettes (cigarettes, because they were French children), soldiers would give them the D ration chocolate. These kids would eat the bar and presumably then decide never to bother an American soldier again, and also never to touch chocolate again for the rest of their lives.
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For more on military grub, check out:
Americans Used To Love Mutton, Until Soldiers Got Sick Of It During WWII
Uruguay Wins a Naval Battle with Cheese
Ramen Was a Black Market Food in Post-WW2 Tokyo (And It Was Controlled by the Yakuza)
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Top image: U.S. Army