Funistrada, the Army’s ‘Ghost Food’

According to a number of second- and third-hand accounts, the word “funistrada” was coined by the U.S. Army some time ago (Bill Bryson cites the year 1974) as a control “mystery food” in dietary-preference surveys conducted on military personnel, where the nonexistant but italian-sounding dish beat out eggplant, lima beans, and cranberry juice.

The word has no Wikipedia page, probably because of the utter lack of verifiable primary references to it’s origin; according to a Google search, the word appears not once on any .mil website or webpage, nor in the exalted realm of .gov, and while there are many, many references to it’s supposed military origin (search “funistrada eggplant”), nobody comes closer to identifying the source than Bill Bryson, who merely refers to a survey of soldiers’ dietary preferences conducted by the Army in 1974. Who, exactly, conducted that survey – Battelle or Natick laboratories, perhaps? – and precisely why remain a mystery; perhaps as part of the development of the MRE, introduced in the early 1980s?

Whatever the reason for the term’s (supposed) coining, it’s an interesting piece of folklore, even if it remains little more than an unverifiable urban legend. (Where are the Mythbusters when you need ’em?)

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on August 22nd, 2007| 1 Comment »

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  1. On 10/28/2015 at 5:28 am Karl Said:

    I’ve identified the original military publication on the wiki page:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funistrada