Ask any current or ex-soldier to list the worst things about his or her army service and the chances are that you'll find the word "Loof" somewhere approaching the top of the list. This mysterious substance, which has been responsible for many cases of indigestion since it was first included in battle rations in 1956, purports to be made from preserved meat and forms the mainstay of any soldier's diet during basic training and under battle conditions.
During my army service, I considered the art of camouflage to be one of my greatest accomplishments. Whether using ketchup, mustard or something more exotic, as a non-tuna eater, in order to get my daily protein, disguising Loof's texture, colour and taste was essential. I have eaten it fried, in stews, chopped into a tomato sauce with pasta and on one traumatic occasion, in a matza sandwich. No matter how hungry I was or what combination it was served in it always failed the taste test and was eaten solely for the purpose of survival.
It came as no surprise therefore to read today on the back page of Yediot Achronot, a page generally dedicated to an amusing news item, that the army is attempting to sell of 66 tons of Loof with a best before date sometime in 2005 which has accumulated in its stores (if it is at its "best" now I hate to imagine how bad it will be afterwards). 66 tons or 200,000 cans of a foodstuff which the army is painfully aware is much hated by those who are served it, to be sold for between NIS 3 and 5 per can - but who on earth would purchase a food to which such a stigma is attached?!
Aside from the amusement that the article caused, it also brought some wonderful news - the old Loof is not being replaced by new (as might be assumed) but with an entirely new product (about time after 48 years!) - canned goulash with potatoes. Whilst my hopes are not particularly high for the new delight, which will be phased in gradually over two years, it can't possibly be worse than what its replacing.
The last stand for Loof will sound in its Golden Jubilee year - not a moment to soon for food lovers in all branches of the armed forces. It will not be missed....