California Observer

Opinion: Luxury Meals at the International Space Station

Photo: NASA

Scott Simon begins his opinion article with, “There may be a reason why astronauts are rhapsodic about the view from space but never mention the food.”

This comes after NASA and other space agencies strive to give crews aboard the International Space Station healthy and interesting meals.

Lobster, cod, and almond tarts with caramelized pears prepared in collaboration with famous French chefs are an occasional meal for French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Still, even he has to slurp most meals out of a plastic squeeze-bag.

Zero gravity may not be the best appetizer to fine dining because food in space can only be rehydrated and reheated. Open flames are not allowed, so it is impossible to cook food fresh. In addition, meals have to be kept contained, so that crew members don’t accidentally spend six months in a pretzel dust storm.

And meals for each crew member must be stored in advance and eaten in order. Astronauts can’t go looking for it on GrubHub.

“All of this may sound a little grim. But astronauts can also enjoy the finest view off the planet. And what are they going to do: leave?” adds Scott Simon.

US astronaut Megan McArthur recently posted photos of herself holding a taco shell stuffed with beef, rehydrated tomatoes, artichokes, and a fresh hatch chile grown aboard the International Space Station.

“[B]est space tacos yet,” she wrote in a tweet.

Even Pesquet posted on Instagram, “It is such a joy to grow (and eat) your own food, and necessary for farther exploration of our Solar System.”

The ISS seems to boast of a suitcase-sized space garden that holds about six “pillows” stuffed with clay and fertilizer, alongside a magenta-hued LED light. 

To test which plants might grow best during a long space voyage, astronauts have grown lettuce, Chinese cabbage, red Russian kale, mizuna mustard, and zinnias.

Melva Aguirre, who owns the Pepper Pot in Hatch, N.M., home of hatch chiles, says the harvest of their famous local crop in outer space is big news.

“Now the whole universe knows how great our chiles are,” she said. When asked if she could recommend a hatch chile recipe, Aguirre told Scott Simon, “Just stuff it.”

“Stuff it?” Scott Simon asked, and she laughed and said, “I mean, in your mouth.”

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