There are obviously a number of things that soldiers deployed overseas miss about home, but there's one request Jeremy Whitsitt of the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center has heard over and over again.
"Since the dawn of time... pizza has been one of the most requested and sought-after components in an MRE," Whitsitt told Military Times. "We're finally cracking the code in getting the crust and the cheese and the meat to all live happily in a pouch for three years, without refrigeration."
MRE stands for Meal Ready to Eat, the meals in a pouch that the military started using to feed soldiers out of reach of a kitchen (or even a flame) in the 1980s to replace canned meals. In addition to maintaining the feel and flavor of pizza for more than 1,000 days, Natick's staff also told WBUR that these pizzas will be available for delivery into combat zones -- via parachute or a 50-foot drop from a helicopter.
Preserving pizza is a tricky task, it turns out, for multiple reasons. First, you've got to keep the sauce from soaking into the crust, and you also have to prevent the acids in the ingredients from turning the whole thing to mush. The solution seems to lie in using doughs with humectants, additives that bind moisture to keep the crust from going soggy. Other gums and enzymes are also added to keep the bread from going stale.
The pizzas in a pouch will be field-tested in the summer and could go into production in 2015. Of course, by then, NASA may have perfected its 3D-printed pizzas. Combine those two technologies, and we could all stock our shelves with enough pies to last until the end of time... or at least until 2018.