Thursday, June 17, 2021

Care package for a sailor

Younger Daughter (who, as you remember, is in the Navy) is deployed once again. From her overseas duty station, she's now at sea for the next six months. Her internet is understandably spotty during this time – it gets worse the farther from shore they are – so we communicate when and how we can.

Life aboard a ship, I gather, obsessively centers on one thing: food. Frequently Younger Daughter is served "midrats" (midnight rations), meals provided for those who are working nights, and apparently the monotony and indifferent quality are a common complaint.

So a couple weeks ago she happened to see the blog post I put up about dehydrating broccoli and wistfully mentioned she would love some dehydrated broccoli. Younger Daughter is fond of a particular soup she used to make when she was a teenager consisting of noodles and various vegetables, and she thought she might be able to cobble together something similar with ramen noodles, a microwave, and boiling water – if only she had dried vegetables.

Well how can any mother resist that kind of cry for help? Next thing I knew, out came the dehydrators and I was trying my hand at drying a variety of new things.

First thing I did was list the vegetables I had canned up in the pantry. Of them, Younger Daughter especially craved corn. I have lots and lots of corn canned up, but I had never tried dehydrating canned corn. Time to experiment.

I started with seven pints...

...which I drained and rinsed.

I used the fine-mesh inserts on the trays.

I wasn't sure how many trays seven pints of corn would fill up, so I just kept spreading and stacking. Of the twelve possible trays (between two dehydrators), the corn filled eight.

Then I divvied them between the two machines, set them up outside (where the noise wouldn't drive us nuts), set the temperature at 125F, and let them run for eight hours.

It turned out better than I hoped.

Each kernel was golden and perfectly dry, yet somehow chewy (not hard like popcorn). The occasional dark kernel is from corn that was a bit above water-level in the jars when canned up. They're discolored, but otherwise fine.

I put the dried corn into a bowl...

...and turned my attention to another one of Younger Daughter's favorite veggies, cabbage.

Cabbage is certainly not something I'd ever tried dehydrating before, so this was unknown territory. The little instruction book that came with the dehydrator didn't even cover it. But a touch of online research suggested slicing the cabbage thin and drying it at 125F for eight hours.

So I peeled off the outer leaves...

...and sliced it thin.

I cut out the core, since the online source said it's too tough and dense to dry. Makes sense.

Four heads of cabbage filled two large bowls.

Those four heads also filled all twelve dehydrator trays full. In fact, I probably crowded the shredded cabbage on the trays a little thicker than I should have, but oh well.

I set the temp at 125F for four hours, rotated the trays, and set them for another four hours.

It turned out much better than I anticipated. I figured the cabbage would have dried down to thin threads of nothingness, but actually it turned out quite decent and with more substance than I expected. However a few pieces were still "damp," so I separated the majority of dried cabbage into a large bowl, and put the still-damp pieces into a smaller bowl.

I snipped these pieces smaller and spread them on a couple of trays for another hour of drying, which did the trick.

It's worth nothing that dehydrating cabbage makes no sense from an economic viewpoint, unless it's spread out in the sun and dried that way. The amount of electricity we used to run two dehydrators for a total of eight hour (or nine, depending on whether you count the extra drying time) far exceeds the cost of the cabbages. The biggest benefit is feeding a hungry sailor stuck out in the middle of the ocean.

After this it was easy to pull together everything else, since it was already dry. In the end I packed up cabbage, corn, broccoli, garlic, and onions. The corn, onions, and garlic came from our own garden, so it will be truly a taste of home.

I also slipped a box of tea into the care package (she requested tea bags, not loose leaf).

What the heck. There are worse things a kid could ask for than a box of dehydrated vegetables.

In only a few short weeks, this box will find its way to the middle of the ocean. Hopefully the veggies will relieve the tedium of midrats.


  1. I hope your efforts and hers work out for her.

  2. Be careful, her shipmates will coyly admire her dish and hint at mom sending more. My son was deployed to a cold area and I sent him a neck gator, his group all wanted one, so off they went all matching and uniform and the color chosen. Care packages are always well received especially when they are opened in front of everyone. I would pack every nook and cranny, even if it was just a stick of gum, no space went to waste.

  3. My daughter was not in the military, but when she asked for some food, I sent it. Mothers have to. I hope she enjoys it.

  4. as a former sailor who has endured midrats far too many times, this little package will be pure heaven for her. And as already noted, you may get a bigger "order" soon.

  5. Love this! Our son is serving in the military, also, but has never asked for a care package of veggies before, lol! I know YD will love it and appreciate the care and attention you put into it.
    When another loved one was serving overseas I threw a tinned candle into the care package. Other service members would crowd around to smell it. That little candle was one of the most popular items I ever sent although some pressed and dried fall leaves were also particularly appreciated!
    Thank you YD for your service! We love our service members!

  6. That's awesome. One would think the crew cooks could figure that one out due to the light weight and smaller space dehydrated food requires. I'm betting she'll be everybody's best friend (if she already isn't.)

  7. It can be a bit surprising to parents, even ones who served themselves, what kids want in a care package. Good wholesome food though and warm cold weather gear seem to be regular, frequent favorites lol. Military doesn't have a rep for supplying the best of either all the time.

    Praying for YD. Thank her for us and tell her so?

  8. I can't speak directly to Navy food, but I was in the Air Force for 20 years and the food was generally good. For years I worked shifts and ate what we called the midnight meal. It is essentially breakfast. I have to admit that I ate the midnight breakfast and the morning breakfast being a big fan of eggs and bacon. I ate lunch and dinner too. My observation is that people either liked or disliked military food and it was one hundred percent subjective based on their own likes and dislikes. I ate four meals a day and often ate seconds and two desserts. What can I say I was a growing boy.

    1. My youngest just got out of the AF. Bacon, sausage and eggs, which he grew up eating every day, were labeled as “eat once a week “ or some such nonsense.
      He’d lost significant weight when we went to his graduation from basic but held his own at tech school where he could get out a bit and supplement his diet.
      He is 6’8” and the one time through the line at the DFAS wasn’t enough. It’s definitely not the mess halls or system of my father or brothers time and he lost money on the deal. They charge for each item , limiting them, and give a basic ration allowance.
      He worked as a crew chief and the meals on the line were all out of pocket.
      He certainly cannot run on the sugar carb diets they serve. He, too, was hungry for lots of veggies and meat when he arrived.

  9. When hubby was in the Navy, some 45 years ago,and deployed at sea he asked for odd, I thought, stuff. Of course, some food but also black shoe polish, ball point pens, and hanging air fresheners.Ship didn't stock much. After the first box, I learned to pack at least 3 more of whatever he asked for so he could share - especially since many of the guys didn't get boxes from home. You're a good mom and all you did will be greatly appreciated by YD and others.

  10. I know what your daughter is talking about. When I served we'd go on patrol with C rations, some variety but lousy flavor. Same thing when we were at the base camp. We waited breathlessly for mail call hoping Mom had sent one of us a care package. Lots of times it was just cookies or/and candy, but occasionally one of the Mom's would send real food, sort of. We'd get cans of Spam with crackers and mustard or beef jerky, cans of soup, instant coffee which was still fairly new on the market at the time, home made breads like banana or date bread. Once a southern guy's Mom send him 2 big jars of mountain oysters which I'd never heard of before and tried one. Then he told me exactly what it was, but I enjoyed the meat enough that I had several more before the jars were emptied by the squad. That was the big drawback of care packages, everyone knew you got one and they all wanted to share in your good fortune. I'm fairly sure that tradition is still in force no matter what branch of the service you're in.

  11. Please tell YD that we are so very proud of her service, and we are thankful for the young men and women who put themselves out for our protection and freedom! Thank you for sending that package of love!

  12. You are the most loving amazing mom. This brought tears to my eyes. God Bless you Patrice

  13. Asa former sailor on very small frigates from the 80's (pre-email and microwaves), I was reflecting on your post and would of absolutely loved to have received this in a care package. Of course ramen would have to be boiled while sitting on an engine but you can get really creative when at sea for long stretches.
    Thanks mom for doing this.

  14. I will say the food quality has gone down from what my youngest child tells me. While deployed on a sub, the food is marked as rejected by the prison system. Definitely enjoys being stationed for shore duty now!
    Please tell your daughter thank you for her service!