Astronauts tuck into gourmet food

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been feasting on experimental gourmet food designed by top French chef Alain Ducasse, the European Space Agency (ESA) reported Friday.

06 Dec 2006

Ducasse, working with ESA and France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), created special dishes that could be used for "celebratory meals" for long-term missions in space.

Last Sunday, the ISS crew got their first taste of the five-star offerings, which were packaged in tins and prepared to strict hygiene standards, ESA said in a press release. All the crew had to do was heat the tins in the ISS' oven.

The main dishes included quails roasted in Mardian wine, red tuna with candied Menton lemon, "Riviera-style swordfish" and a confit of breast of duck with capers.

The side dishes included sand carrots "with a hint of orange and coriander" and "a light puree of celery with a hint of nutmeg," ESA said lyrically.

For dessert, Ducasse came up with semolina cake with dried apricots, apple fondant pieces, rice pudding with candied fruit and a "space" version of a cake called far, which originates in France's western region of Brittany.

German astronaut Thomas Reiter, who arrived aboard the orbiting outpost five months ago, said the food was exquisite, and pointed out that good meals provided astronauts with an important morale boost.

"Food is something which gives us a break. It is something where we find some joy and we are really trying to take some time for our meals," said Reiter.

He regretted, though, one missing item: "It would taste much better if we had some wine with it as well!"

Ducasse's menus contrast with the first food consumed in space by Soviet cosmonauts and US astronauts around 45 years ago, which were fruit compotes and other bland mixes squeezed out of aluminium tubes like toothpaste.

The culinary range aboard the ISS is due to extend next week, when Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, scheduled to be taken aloft aboard the US space shuttle on December 7, will bring a box of Scandinavian delicacies.

They including dried moose meat, crispbread and gingerbread biscuits, a traditional Swedish snack at Christmas.

Image: French chef, Alain Ducasse in France, 2003

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