Thursday, November 12, 2009

Astronaut Cookbook


Hockey pal & faithful reader (maybe you noticed the pattern this month) Mrs. Rene L. over at Pages, Pucks & Pantry tipped me off to a wonderful new paperback by Charles Bourland and Gregory Vogt called The Astronaut's Cookbook!

I’m tremendously pleased to see such a tome on the market, since I still run into people who think both astronauts and flight analogs use Tang to wash down only freeze-dried fare or paste tubes. However, this little kitchen funhouse emphasizes that fresh fruits and vegetables are MUST HAVES for every mission, and also covers the various Space Food Types: Rehydratable Food, Thermostabilized Food, Intermediate Moisture Food, Irradiated Meat, and so on.

Astronaut CookbookExcerpt:
"Satellites, lunar landings, space stations, robot rovers on Mars, solar and deep space observatories, and probes to the edges of interstellar space have sent back a flood of scientific information. Space exploration has fundamentally changed our lives, from the classroom to the marketplace to cyberspace.

Space food is a unique branch of nutrition science. [Creating it] is all about packaging, preparation, consumption and disposal. The primary driving force behind space food menu development is weight and volume. The less the payload carried by a rocket, the less thrust the rocket must generate to reach space."

Space Foods
True that! Everything placed on board for liftoff is measured to the last cubic inch and fraction of an ounce -- including the astronauts and their food. The book also covers the challenges of eating in micro-gravity and advises what to look for in your local market in terms of making your own space-worthy drinks, entrees, snacks, soups, salads and breads (hint: crumbly foods are a bad idea... stick with tortillas!)

Also, stories are not limited to the NASA food lab. The Russians insist up on their borscht, but look askance at American peanut butter. JAXA uses rice as a staple. Some foods, like onions and garlic, cross national lines but can still be divisive among crew members.

During the first long-term missions, Johnson psychologists included Hostess Twinkies in a care package to one astronaut, justifying it as comfort food. However upon receipt of the package for a re-supply mission to MIR, the Russians refused to deliver them because... wait for it... the package didn’t have an expiration date! The lab joked that Twinkies never expire, but the Russians weren’t going for it. The American aboard MIR had to make do with M&Ms.

Space Twinkies

True to any modern cookbook, it also feature some specialized recipes from famous chefs (including Emeril and Rachael Ray) and some of the more flamboyant astronauts. My personal favorites so far are Paula Hall's Chipotle Lime-Marinated Grilled Pork Chops and Joe Kewin's Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas.

Just in time for Thanksgiving! It's my turn to cook this year, won't my family be surprised...