Food served to astronauts not the most appetizing fare

Space-age food

This week, another group of private astronauts arrived at the International Space Station.

They work for Space X, and will do scientific experiments and community outreach, like talking to school kids from space.

NASA is still the main organization looking after space missions, but in today’s world, space is another industry with partnerships and commercial opportunities.

Did you know there have been people on the International Space Station (ISS) since November 2000? Not the same people, but always crew members there working, and scientists there doing experiments and researching all kinds of things. It made me wonder, they can’t work all the time, so what else do they do? What do they eat, and where do they eat? Is there a canteen or a “restaurant?”

Although there is a recently added “habitat module” that is part of the ISS, it is currently only used for scientific purposes. It is helping scientists understand how future tourist businesses might exist in space someday. For now, the astronauts’ activities outside their work include intense exercise to keep them in shape and eating food in packages.

The environment of space, with its microgravity, makes everything more challenging than we are used to. Cutting hair is done with a vacuum attachment so the pieces of cut hair don’t clog important air filters. Astronauts strap themselves onto the toilet when using it. At mealtime, food must be contained, with containers often being anchored on a tray with Velcro or magnets. An important table utensil is a pair of scissors to open packages.

I also discovered one’s sense of taste is inhibited in space. Because our bodily fluids are not drawn lower in your body from gravity, their even distribution means the faces of those in space get puffy and their sinuses get congested. Astronauts generally prefer eating intensely flavoured foods because they only taste as much as they would when having a cold.

Food in space must have a long shelf life, of course, so much of it is freeze-dried. Astronauts even get freeze-dried ice cream. Some items like nuts, granola bars, cookies and other pantry items can be simply repackaged and then processed with heat or radiation to kill any bacteria. Items that might leave crumbs, like bread, are not allowed. (They can clog the filters just like hair.)

Some food items have been popular in space since the beginning. Did you know they still stock Tang as a beverage of choice for the crew on the ISS? It was adapted by NASA years ago to use in space, and with its excellent source of vitamin C, it is still a good choice.

If you are someone who likes leftovers or doesn’t like eating all their veggies, I’m sorry but you can’t stay on the space station. Meals are calculated carefully to ensure astronauts get all the necessary calories. Can you imagine how smelly garbage would be in that kind of closed environment?

So, it seems the possibility of a restaurant in space is not going to happen very soon. But I do see some serious opportunities if private companies continue to partner with NASA and other space agencies to explore the universe.

As a devoted food lover, I am not in a hurry to sample food I can hardly taste that was rehydrated or irradiated. Even watching all those Star Trek episodes, I was never convinced the food coming out of those space-age dumbwaiters looked worthwhile.

I’m sure the view from a restaurant in space would be a fantastic selling point but I think I’ll wait to make my reservation until the beverage list is expanded beyond Tang.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

The joys, and frustrations, of gardening in the Okanagan

Getting down and dirty

They say April showers bring May flowers.

In the Okanagan this year, we seem to have mostly skipped the rain and jumped ahead to the flowers. I love seeing the spring blossoms, and perennial plants are the garden gift that keeps on giving. I love having the instant gratification of that early garden beauty.

That said, I do have a few pet peeves I will share with you this week. If you are a fellow gardener, or even just a foodie, I think you will commiserate with me. The flowers of May might magically appear after a rain, but the vegetables need considerably more work before they decide to grace my garden with their presence.

Why is dirt so dirty?

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get your fingernails clean after a day of gardening? Even if you wear gloves there is a pesky line of super-fine, but incredibly tough, dirt particles that settles at the bottom of your nails. No amount of soaking, scrubbing or washing will get them clean. Most of the summer I feel like a kid who just came back from the sand box with my grubby hands.

Dirt is even more difficult to remove when it gets wet. Here at Rabbit Hollow, we have heavy clay soil. As mud, it sticks in big clumps to gardening tools and gloves, gumboots, and dog paws with a vengeance. On a rainy day, I have a three-phase canine paw-washing procedure that is required before I send our Labrador, Freyja, back inside.

How come gardens are always in the ground?

This may sound ridiculous but hear me out. I do have some raised beds and containers. Even those however, are still only “a wee ways” off the ground, as my Gramps would have said. I am six feet tall. That’s a lot of bending. Gardening has made me flexible—bending at the knees, stretching my back and reaching with my arms. My real reward doesn’t come until later in the season, when plants grow taller and I can look up again.

If all the bending is your pet peeve, I can tell you our Tower Garden provides a great alternative. As the name suggests, the format of this growing system is a tall cylinder with lights and an irrigation system. It allows us to have some homegrown edible greens year-round, with no bending over. That’s a system worth saluting.

Can’t plants grow faster in the beginning and slower in the end?

One of my earliest motivations for having a green thumb was the good old Chia Pet. Who wouldn’t want to try growing something that would almost change in front of your eyes? The only thing better would have been edible sea monkeys. Alas, I have never been able to create such an environment in the veggie garden. No June zucchinis or July tomatoes here.

Even though I can’t rush Mother Nature, I am grateful that the Okanagan growing season is one of the longest in Canada. It certainly beats that of Calgary, where I grew up. There I could never get more than a few ripe tomatoes.

I try hard to pick realistic crops for the garden, but curiosity is one of the qualities I have in abundance. I am always hoping that we will have great weather all season so I can get the most out of everything I grow. The beginning of the summer always feels like it moves at a snail’s pace in the garden, but then as autumn approaches I am racing to harvest and preserve everything all at once.

The exception to this rule is weeds. Have you ever noticed how it seems things are going along fine, and then you blink and your plants are choked by chickweed? I have learned what wild greens can be used for salads, but even with that knowledge I am overwhelmed with wild mallow, lamb’s quarters, bindweed, dandelions and burdocks

All kidding aside, after years of mucking about in the dirt all hunched over, getting grubby hands and flailing in autumn storms to gather what bounty there was, I have come to love the satisfaction of toiling in the earth and having something to show for my efforts. I have huge admiration for farmers, those dedicated individuals who choose to work with mercurial Mother Nature for their livelihood.

I have discovered that weeding makes for excellent anger management therapy. Best of all, my faith is renewed every spring when the flowers reappear and I feel the giddiness of a child when the first radishes peek above the earth and beans grow on the stalks. A sense of reverence envelopes me when I harvest my very own veggies and serve them as a meal.

I suppose that’s worth a few dirty fingernails, a bit of impatience and a sore back.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

The simplest meal, done with flair

Remembering Julia Child

I was watching a show about the late Julia Child recently, showcasing her rise to fame as a television star.

Did you know she had one of the first cooking shows on television? The “French Chef” first aired in 1963, when the concept of cooking French recipes at home seemed out of reach for a home cook. Julia changed all that.

The pilot episode of Julia’s show was about making an omelette. The simplicity of making this dish was part of how the series got started—Julia demonstrated it while on a public television show called “I’ve Been Reading”, as a way to promote her cookbook. Viewers responded to her candid and entertaining manner, saying they wanted more.

The “French Chef” was filmed live on videotape, so most of what would be considered bloopers on a show today became cherished classical Julia moments.

One episode about potatoes involved Julia trying to flip a potato pancake – and having a large portion of it miss the pan on the way down.

“You can pick it up when you’re alone in the kitchen,” using her hands to put the errant pieces in the pan. “Who is going to see?”

This incident turned into an urban legend over the years, most of us thinking she dropped a chicken, turkey, leg of lamb or roast on the floor. Even with just potatoes, she still gave us an opportunity to forgive ourselves for a mishap. And she offered further encouragement for future attempts, saying: “You must have the courage of your convictions.”

Julia Child may have studied at Le Cordon Bleu in France, but she always professed to be a home cook. She showed viewers for decades that they could tackle a complicated recipe and manage it with confidence if they were just willing to stick with it.

From the opening show with a simple omelette and season seven’s “Lasagne à la Française,” using the leftover ground beef, cheese and veggies in her fridge, Julia showed us we were capable of many things. In season nine she did “The Omelette Show,” where she showed us our possible potential, making omelettes for imaginary dinner guests in just 20 seconds each, including fillings.

With Mother’s Day upon us, and many people thinking of the daunting task of cooking for the cook in their home, I thought this might provide some welcome inspiration. You can watch Julia’s first French omelette show here. (https://youtu.be/N40qglGNRlA ) Just know that even if it doesn’t look perfect, you will have achieved a delightful dish.

Maybe you are happy in your comfort zone and won’t be cooking anything new any time soon. You can still remember to have the courage of your convictions in anything else. Maybe it’s trying that dish at the restaurant that you haven’t tried yet, or taking a class at the gym or the community centre? (If you need more encouragement from Julia, try this selection of her great moments. https://youtu.be/M9AITdJBTnQ )

A simple effort, like a simple meal, happens with just a few steps. Julia inspired so many people with her efforts, never afraid to show us that a bit of flair could cover a myriad of mishaps. If we aren’t ready to fail, she said, we can never be ready to learn.

Here’s to learning new things, and doing them with flair.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Remembering a mom who encouraged her daughter to just be herself

'Thanks, mom'

When I was a kid, I was weird.

I liked wearing a flowery embroidered purple tunic with just about anything, regardless of colour or pattern (it was my favourite top). I wore horizontally striped socks with skirts. I carried a book bag years before any of my schoolmates. What I thought was cool never synced up with what was generally considered cool. I was a complete klutz, not coordinated at all. I was taller than most of the boys in my class and I didn’t wear a bra until senior high school. (Also not cool, as I was often reminded.)

My mom always let me be me. She would check with me as I got older sometimes, maybe offering an alternative for consideration, but she supported my final decisions.

Mostly, I liked being weird. I have always enjoyed quirky things, and new adventures. They attracted me.That why I became such a foodie, I wanted to try new tastes and understand how to incorporate them.

Becoming a sommelier was also a perfect fit for me—it’s a bit of a nerdy pursuit, learning all that history and geography and tasting wine, but then spitting it out.

When I took up gardening, I found another weird way to express myself. Just like that embroidered top, the flowers that attract me are unique and the patterns in my garden plots are more wild than organized.

For some people, all this is just too much of a difference. It can scare them away. I have been very fortunate to find some wonderful friends over the years, but often I’ve encountered folks who just don’t know what to do with me, or how to respond to all my weirdness.

I remember asking my mom on one particularly tough day, at about the age of 15, “All of this is just a phase, right? It will pass. I’ll grow out of it, won’t I?”

Without hesitating, she answered, “No dear, it’s not a phase. You’ll have to learn to live with it.”

I think back then I figured she was kidding. It took me another few years to realize I was born not to fit in. The more I tried to be a part of the cool crowd, the more they disliked me. I should have connected the dots, knowing my tastes were different.

Once I understood that others who had similar (equally weird) tastes were my “tribe,” then I stopped trying to explain the differences as a way of being accepted.

My mom passed away recently. I was chuffed (thrilled) to see her embrace her own weirdness in a new way once she retired. She spent the last 11 years of her life sailing and travelling, with winters in Mexico. She met new people and made new friends.

As this Mother’s Day approaches, I am flooded with all kinds of memories we shared and I am grateful for the skills she taught me like cooking, gardening, reading, and appreciating the little things.

She was always a traditional Mom, making great cookies, putting notes in my lunch, sewing my choir outfits and Hallowe’en costumes.But the best thing my mom did for me was encourage me to be who I really am.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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