The glorified gift shop souvenir of the National Air and Space Museum is fun to buy, but tasty? Today, astronauts can choose among 180 food and beverage items, including beef fajitas, cranapple cobbler, and “Mexican” eggs with beans—quite a step up from the squeeze tubes during the Project Mercury days. And more complex than the gift shop's ice cream sandwich.
Food scientists, not chefs or critics, are in charge of NASA’s space meals. Is tastiness prioritized? On some level, it doesn't matter because aromas don’t waft up in space. Chicago Tribune food and wine writer Bill Daley tried a bunch and critiqued them for Discovery magazine. While he was wild about the shrimp cocktail (an astronaut favorite), he wasn't too hot for the Asian-themed entree.
The six medium-size orange shrimp were just a touch chewy after their slapdash, 10-minute water bath, but they looked and smelled like what you get at the supermarket. NASA’s cocktail sauce is spiked with plenty of horseradish and salt. If anything can revive tired taste buds in space, this dish is it. I chased it with a pouch of powdered mango-orange drink. The lush but tangy mango flavor juiced up the orange’s sweetness, and the mango aroma was pronounced. It was delicious.
The precut chicken pieces were a strange pinky-beige color, sort of an avian version of Malibu Barbie.
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