Does anyone have any good leads on self heating MREs for passenger train trips...

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 11:37 AM

54light15
It's been a long time since I've taken an Amtrak. Is the food that bad? Wouldn't it be possible to load up a small cooler with grub from say, a New York deli? Cold cuts, cheese, mustard, rolls, beer? If you're leaving NYC, that is. 

OK so the answer to this depends on you and your background.     I travel for business and have lunches with Executives.   So usually thats not the Waffle House.    In my opinion, Amtrak food is 2 stars at best.    I have had Amtrak food on my plate though that I would never serve as a host.    It wasn't necessarily red lining the gross meter but it was unseasoned, tasteless, or undercooked slightly.   When you have an Amtrak Chef that barely passes with scrambled eggs or an omlet.......lookout.    So that should be your test meal in the dining car.    It will predict the food for the rest of the trip.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 8:11 PM

54light15
Wouldn't it be possible to load up a small cooler with grub from say, a New York deli? Cold cuts, cheese, mustard, rolls, beer?

Was, and is.  Don't forget that Peltier coolers can heat as well as chill, and there's a range of very effective 'Thermos' bottles, both wide-neck and tall, that can keep things effectively very cold or hot for many hours.

I successfully carried several Tiffany goblets, a bottle of Directors Bin Port, a thermos of lobster bisque, a wide-mouth of lobster Newburg and some Acorn pattern silverware as a kind of containerized picnic in one of those Samsonite briefcases... went well with the Cokes Amtrak provided (individual red cans with a tall cup of that pebbled ice that holds its chill...) and didn't tip anyone off to the 'amenities' within.  Wouldn't have been difficult to have brought linen napkins and tablecloth too.  There was plenty of room for good sandwiches, particularly good pastrami with very heavy mustard... and there are many kinds of sandwich that travel well and taste really good even after a while in the cooler...

Now you've got me nostalgic and hungry at the same time, a poor combination.

The problem is this: Anything other than sealed bottles and very specific kinds of food won't 'keep' for more than a couple of days of continuous travel, and do require some fairly complicated prepping with access to refrigerated storage and a stove and microwave.  divebardave is living what he indicates as a bohemian lifestyle, hence the packaged meals that can 'go' indefinitely in a backpack before being shoved into the MRE heating pouch or onto the manifold at eating time.  

I can't speak to how nutritious or low-sodium they are, but a number of manufacturers started making 'pouch' meals that nominally get microwaved for only a minute and then serve as the 'bowl' to eat out of.  They did not appear to sell well in my neck of the woods, and I bought a huge quantity at Walmart marked down to what I recall as 25 cents each at the very end (for the less popular 'flavor' choices).  There were Italian dishes -- a bit better than Chef Boy-ar-Dee in a pouch -- and a range of Mexican-American things, and I enjoyed them quite a bit ... naturally they'd taste better eaten on the semi-sly in a moving train, and cleanup would be a snap.  I think these would fit neatly into the "MRE heater" pouch, and come up to temperature neatly in the timeframe involved for a MRE...

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Posted by divebardave on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 9:21 PM

This would not be a problem if Amtrak would let me use there Microwave in the club car...tired of paying $$$$$ for meals that cost 3.99 retail.

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Posted by divebardave on Friday, February 7, 2020 3:14 PM

"I successfully carried several Tiffany goblets, a bottle of Directors Bin Port, a thermos of lobster bisque, a wide-mouth of lobster Newburg and some Acorn pattern silverware as a kind of containerized picnic in one of those Samsonite briefcases... went well with the Cokes Amtrak provided (individual red cans with a tall cup of that pebbled ice that holds its chill...) and didn't tip anyone off to the 'amenities' within.  Wouldn't have been difficult to have brought linen napkins and tablecloth too.  There was plenty of room for good sandwiches, particularly good pastrami with very heavy mustard... and there are many kinds of sandwich that travel well and taste really good even after a while in the cooler..."

Will trade my Stoffers Mac and Cheese and a 6 pack of Old Milwalkie for all that...

 

 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, February 14, 2020 11:54 AM

divebardave
This would not be a problem if Amtrak would let me use there Microwave in the club car...tired of paying $$$$$ for meals that cost 3.99 retail.

If you contaminate the Microwave with spoiled food or some other food borne illness and it transfers to food that Amtrak sells..........how do the health authorities track it back to the source?     Thats why it is illegal by most health standards for any eating establishment to allow the public to use a Microwave in a public eating venue.     If the microwave is in your hotel room, different story since you signed for the hotel room.    Microwaves in an employee cafeteria are only accceptable if the same microwaves are not used by the cafeteria vendor to heat food and sell it.    Hotels will not allow you to bring your own food into a conference room if they are providing catering.    Same reason, health department rule against mingling food prep with the general public.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, February 28, 2020 9:25 AM

divebardave
Will trade my Stouffers Mac and Cheese and a 6 pack of Old Milwaukee for all that...

No you will not.  

But we'll share and share alike.  (As it happens, I love Stouffer's and have always liked OM when I'm thirsty on a budget.)  I'll bring proper glasses because it's more fun that way than straight from their can, unless they still make longnecks...

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, February 28, 2020 9:32 AM

With Covid-19 spreading, I doubt if DBD will be allowed in any Amtrak eating facility.  Some people seem to have short memories concerning his past history.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, February 28, 2020 9:45 AM

CMStPnP
If you contaminate the Microwave with spoiled food or some other food borne illness and it transfers to food that Amtrak sells ... how do the health authorities track it back to the source?

You're making two assumptions here, which are only partly justified objectively.

There is no reason why Amtrak cannot make 'customer microwaves' available at user's risk, separate from anything Amtrak's own meals are prepared in.  (I might add that it is relatively unlikely that any of the gang microwave/convection machines proposed for 'diner' service are particularly suitable for an individual with an unpackaged meal to use in the first place, so sourcing relatively small easily-programmed units for 'portion-size' prep or reheat should be done anyway if 'customer option' is to be provided.)

There is also no reason why some kind of disposable liner cannot be provided, or required, for the machine (or to enclose the food before it is heated, a bit like a sealable version of the MRE sleeve referred to above).  I would think that in between required precautions and some kind of waiver provisions to use the devices it would be possible to provide them 'safely' ... that is, until some pressure group or other decides to try making a little class-action gravy with them, as it were...

That's why it is illegal by most health standards for any eating establishment to allow the public to use a Microwave in a public eating venue.

Strange how so many service stations and convenience stores have microwaves open for clients to use ... not all of which are particularly kept spotless.

Many of the places that do (I'm thinking of a few shudder-worthy Greyhound places) require you to 'buy something' in order to use the microwave, but I have never had one say the use is then restricted solely to the item(s) you purchased.  Perhaps in our brave new PC-centric culture the insurance companies are making this less and less practical.

If the microwave is in your hotel room, different story since you signed for the hotel room.

I've conducted casual tests over the years to see how effectively the microwaves are dutched out during room turns.  Very seldom do I find them either carefully cleaned of all food material or 'sanitized' beyond whatever the wipe-it-down cleaning solution provides.  It is cute to think that a 'foodborne' infection could be tracked down to the persons who had the room prior, but there are no particular protections to assure total safety -- certainly not even to the level I'm proposing.

Microwaves in an employee cafeteria are only accceptable if the same microwaves are not used by the cafeteria vendor to heat food and sell it.

But you notice they are perfectly acceptable if the cafeteria vendor sells it and the customer promptly heats it, which is the 'paradigm' any Amtrak customer-use microwave would involve.  The only potential problem then is if some cozening client or other tries to inveigle an Amtrak attendant into 'taking off this difficult wrapper' or 'helping a poor arthritic granny work the machine' and thereby acquire some share of responsibility.  I can think of at least the same wide range of policies and procedures about this that Anderson might.

 

Now, all the foregoing is kinda like a devil's-advocate discussion, because the real issue with a customer-only microwave on many Amtrak trains is likely to be very, very similar to the restroom issues: apparently a great many riders won't treat the microwave right, and the attendants will shuck any responsibility to fix the unsanitary mess they didn't cause.

If you have a disposable liner, any conceivable ethnic-food catastrophe ought to strip right out to the can ... or a sealed biohazard-control bag ... and bingo! a shiny new cavity for the next one.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, February 28, 2020 9:52 AM

I doubt if many Amtrak patrons would want their food heated after witnessing them micro the materials of the Ohio River Troll.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, February 28, 2020 10:06 AM

charlie hebdo

I doubt if many Amtrak patrons would want their food heated after witnessing them micro the materials of the Ohio River Troll.

Now, now ... isn't anything there that a little chlorine dioxide followed by piranha solution wouldn't fix nearly as good as new.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, February 28, 2020 11:38 AM

As the lady said who bought a heart-shaped whirlpool tub at an auction of the equipment of a defunct Poconos resort said...

"I don't care what happened in it, probably nothing a little bleach won't take care of!" 

This thread's back?  I thought it was "cooked."

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, February 28, 2020 12:05 PM

Flintlock76

As the lady said who bought a heart-shaped whirlpool tub at an auction of the equipment of a defunct Poconos resort said...

"I don't care what happened in it, probably nothing a little bleach won't take care of!" 

This thread's back?  I thought it was "cooked."

 

"Old trolls never die, they just return under a new nom de plume."

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, February 28, 2020 7:58 PM

Hey, you know what?  If DBD writes an article, say, "The Railfan's Guide To Trackside Dive Bars," and "Trains" buys it and publishes it, I'll make a point of reading it.

But NOT with the idea of visiting any dive bars!  I'm too old for that stuff.  Like George Thorogood, "I Drink Alone."   Wink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E9ydw_aDMg  

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, February 29, 2020 6:07 AM

Overmod
Strange how so many service stations and convenience stores have microwaves open for clients to use ... not all of which are particularly kept spotless.

It's not strange at all.   As I stated in my post the food prep is segregated in that those microwaves are for client use only and not mixed with those establishments prep of food for the client.   The proposal as stated above that I responded to was to have Amtrak make it's existing microwaves available for the public to use.    This is illegal in most states as I am 100% confident it is illegal in your state as well.   Take any state mandated food prep course and you will see.

Look you don't have to take what I say at face value, call any hotel or other eating establishment catering manager and ask if you can bring a dish to pass along with paying that venue to also cater food.    They should mention state law and in some cases recite it for you.    I have setup several events like this, trust me it's the law in every state I have operated in.    I am sure the same law applies to Amtrak.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, February 29, 2020 6:15 AM

Overmod
If you have a disposable liner, any conceivable ethnic-food catastrophe ought to strip right out to the can ... or a sealed biohazard-control bag ... and bingo! a shiny new cavity for the next one.

Have my doubts the government would accept a disposable liner as any kind of solution here to segregation of food prep areas (between public and private retail use).    You can of course ask your local health department and see what they say via E-Mail and take it from hypothetical to real.    They would be the first to tell you thumbs up or thumbs down via interpretation of how the law is written.   I'm not going to get into that myself.

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