Let’s Talk Food: It’s 50 years since man walked on the moon

Did you ever wonder what food scientists at NASA put in the shuttles for the astronauts?

In 1962, NASA was not sure whether humans could absorb nutrients in zero gravity so John Glenn, the first American to eat in space, ate applesauce in a tube, xylose sugar tablets with water and Tang, the orange flavored drink mix. However in 2013, NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin said, “Tang sucks.”

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Tang contains 29 grams of sugar, or 1 ounce, which represents 94% of the product’s dry weight, 10% of the RDA of carbohydrates, 100% RDA of Vitamin C, 6% RDA of calcium and it has a total of 120 calories.

Did you know in the Middle East, more than half of Tang’s annual sales happen in just six weeks around Ramadan, when many families gather for dinner or an event with a variety of food and Tang.

In 1965, astronaut John Young brought a contraband corned beef sandwich aboard Gemini 3. It was thought sandwiches could be dangerous because floating crumbs could interfere with equipment. NASA officials had to testify about this infraction before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Then 50 years ago, in June 1969, according to NASA, Neil Armstrong and Aldrin ate two meals ON the moon’s surface. The first meal was made up of bacon squares and peaches, with sugar cookies for dessert. The second was beef stew and cream of chicken soup with date fruit cake for dessert. Time magazine, on the other hand, claimed they ate ham salad sandwiches, rehydrated beverages and “fortified fruit strips” during the lunar excursion..

For the Apollo 7 flight, freeze-dried ice cream, also called astronaut ice cream, was developed and tested. However, it never made the flight. You can still find them at science museums and gift shops and they can be ordered on Amazon.

The Apollo 8 crew celebrated Chiristmas Day 1968 with thermo-stabilized turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce.

In the late 1960s, Pillsbury’s chief food technologist Howard Bauman created Space Food Sticks and filed for a trademark for a “non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein.”

This snack was the forerunner of energy bars and came in peanut butter, caramel and chocolate.

In an effort to bring up safe, healthy and nutritional space food, in 1972 it went aboard Skylab 3. Currently, Space Food Sticks are available in flight museums such at the Kennedy Space Center and the Smithsonian Air &Space Museum, as well as online.

On the Discovery V flight, M&Ms and barbecue sauce were taken up in space.

In 1995 on the Endeavor, astronaut Bill Gergory ate freeze-dried shrimp cocktail for 48 consecutive meals. Apparently, shrimp kept its texture and color when rehydrated, and since the taste buds are dulled in space, the horseradish in the cocktail was quite strong.

Red romaine lettuce became the first vegetable grown in space in the International Space Station, Expedition 40 with 44 members, in 2015, and they all got to eat them. They used a veggie plant growth system, which was developed by NASA in outer space environments. Designed in conjunction with ORBITEC, it is currently being used aboard the International Space Station.

In 2017, Italian astronaut Paulo Nespoli of the European Space Agency hosted the first zero-gravity pizza party in space. Their pizza was topped with cheese, pepperoni and olives. Nespoli first traveled into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

This year, the Lunar Library was shipped to the moon and included was a recipe for queso from Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, the lander carrying the library crashed, but the recipe is still available.

This queso is supposed to be the most delicious queso ever.

Kerbey Lane Cafe Queso

Pico de Gallo:

1/2 jalapeno, diced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2 tomato, chopped

Juice of one lime

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Guacamole:

1 avocado

Juice of one lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Queso:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

12 ounces white American cheese, shredded (do not use pre-shredded cheese, it won’t melt properly)

1/2-2/3 cup whole milk or half &half

For pico de gallo:

Stir all ingredients together and set aside at room temperature.

Guacamole:

Remove avocado pit, chop the avocado. Place in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir together. Place a heaping spoonful in pico de gallo, reserve rest for top of queso. Cover guacamole with plastic wrap, pressing it into top to prevent browning until ready to use, store in refrigerator.

Queso:

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, spices and cook a few minutes until softened.

Add shredded cheese and 1/4 cup milk. Stir until mostly melted.

Add additional milk a little at a time until consistency is achieved, either thick or thin. Whisk continuously. (Remember, the queso thickens further as it cools)

To assemble: Place large scoop of guacamole in bottom of serving dish or bowl, pour the hot queso over top.

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Top with spoonful of fresh pico de gallo and guacamole and serve with tortilla chips.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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