The Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) has been disliked by many (most?) American soldiers. A particularly unpopular offering was frankfurters and beans; the four frankfurters were nicknamed the “four fingers of death.”
“Four fingers of death” has been cited in print since at least 2001.
Wikipedia: Meal, Ready-to-Eat
The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MRE – is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States military for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. The MRE replaced the canned MCI or Meal, Combat, Individual rations in 1981 and is the intended successor to the lighter LRP ration developed by the United States Army for Special Forces and Ranger patrol units in Vietnam.
Some of the early MRE main courses were not very palatable, earning them the nicknames “Mr. E” (mystery), “Meals Rejected by Everyone”, “Meals, Rarely Edible”, “Meals Rejected by the Enemy”, “Morsels, Regurgitated, Eviscerated”, “Mentally Retarded Edibles”, “Meal Ready to Expel”, “Meal, Ready to Excrete”, “Materials Resembling Edibles”, “Morale Reducing Elements”, and even “Meals Rejected by Ethiopians”. Some meals got their own nicknames. For example, the frankfurters, which came sealed in pouches of four, were referred to as “the four fingers of death”. Although quality has improved over the years, many of the nicknames have stuck.
Best tasting MRE?
Posted: 12/31/2001 2:43:08 AM [Last Edit: 12/31/2001 2:48:01 AM by sherm8404]
My #1 entree, Chili Mac!(With the whole little bottle of Tabasco) Dessert? Lemon Pound cake. Crackers with grape jam is great too. Sherm The “Grilled Beefsteak, Chunked and Formedwith gril marks” smells like ALPO, my dogs loved it. Does anyone actually eat the four fingers of death? I made that mistake once. Once! Never again.
30 October 2002, Washington (DC) Times, “Now here’s a 3-year-old sandwich to die for: It’s the Army’s ‘First Strike Rations’”:
Mr. Darsch acknowledges that Marines referred to the dubious tinned wieners as “the four fingers of death,” while the chicken earned the title “chicken a la death.”
A Day in the Life of the United States Armed Forces:
Photographed by 125 of the world’s leading photojournalists on a single day, October 22, 2002
By Lewis J. Korman and Matthew Naythons
New York, NY : HarperCollins Publishers
Now it’s Thai chicken and trendy pocket sandwiches, instead of mystery-meat casseroles and the frankfurters known in the Marine Corps as the Four Fingers of Death.
25 March 2003, Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), “Improived MREs keep the troops fed,” pg. E6:
The so-called “Four Fingers of Death”—four hot dogs in a bag with beans—is also on its way out.
San Francisco (CA) Chronicle
A lot of cooks in the MRE kitchen / Men in lab coats and hair nets whet GIs’ frontline appetite
Kim Severson, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 4:00 a.m., Monday, April 7, 2003
When the food scientists originally developed MREs, they didn’t ask what the modern soldier might find appealing. But the soldiers told them—and in no uncertain terms—calling the field rations “Meals Rejected by Everyone.” They tossed unopened brown plastic bags filled with casseroles and ham loaf into the desert, and had nicknames for the worst entrees, like the “four fingers of death.” Translation: smoked frankfurters.
Uncivilized Beasts and Shameless Hellions:
Travels with an NPR Correspondent
y John F. Burnett
Emmaus, PA: Rodale: Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck
But some meals were beyond help. He who received the brown pouch containing beef frankfurters received “the four fingers of death.”
US Mechanized Infantryman in the First Gulf War
By Gordon L. Rottman
New York, NY: Osprey Publishing
Some entrées were less popular than others — such as the “four fingers of death” (frankfurters and beans) and “wild turkey surprise” (turkey diced with sauce). Meal trading was common.
By JoAnn Ross
New York, NY: Signet 9New American Library)
“But then again, guys who’d actually eat the Four Fingers of Death and live to tell about it are not exactly going to be invited to judge Top Chef.”
Just the memory of those gross mystery-meat things claiming to be hot dogs was enough to make Kirby groan.
OCLC WorldCat record
The four fingers of death : a novel
Author: Rick Moody
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2010.
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English : 1st ed
Montese Crandall, a down-on-his-luck writer with a wife who is gravely ill, pens a novelization of the 2025 remake of a 1963 horror movie, wherein an animated dismembered arm, missing its middle finger, is the only remnant that returns to Earth from a mission to Mars.