Yuri Sinyavsky , the Vice President of Kazakh Institute of Nutrition, the Head of the biotechnology of specialized food products laboratory is a very ingenious person. Once he created a space plov. And then made space baursak and beshbarmak. “Space” in the truest sense of the word as his fine cuisine flies to the orbit and adorns the astronauts’ table.
It is all started when Talgat Musabaev came up to Yuri Alexandrovich with an idea to serve Kazakh delicacy to foreign astronauts during the flight. What if professor could create something special, something that one will never find in over-seas and European cuisine?
“We set to work”, Sinyavsky says, “and soon came up with a “Dastarhan” program that included the orbital menu with national colorings. For example Kazakh soup with meat, Kazakh plov, “Batyr” and “Jiger” curds, “Baitereck” and “Baikonur” biscuit – all in all 15 different products. After all Russians always treat us with borsch and dumplings, Germans treat us with sausages, and we are none the worse”.
“What makes space beshbarmak special? Indeed dough and meat are the same…”
“Not exactly. Every product contains biologically active complex developed in our laboratory. These are Kazakhstan grown fruit and vegetables dry packs and extracts with vitamins and microelements added. Each time we use a new combination that gives definite effect. For example simple fruit puree may turn into delicacy made of sea buckthorn juice, apple, strawberry, carrot and milk with antioxidants. Beshbarmak is also prepared with the whole range of biologically active ingredients added. A special technology is used to prepare all the dishes without any food additive and stabilizers. And all the products go through processing that helps to preserve all the vitamins and microelements.
In fact space food should comply with many important requirements. Food ration needs to be in compliance with energy consumption and have minimum non digestible substances. Volume and mass of products should be minimal. And all the food should be of good quality throughout the flight. All conditions and conveniences should be provided to take food in imponderability. And finally the range of food should consist of ready- to- eat products that needn’t to be cut, heated and cooked if possible.
So the perfect food in space could be some kind of completely assimilable nourishing pills that are easy to take. Though scientists didn’t manage to create pills they managed to develop methods to make portable ready - to - eat products”.
“Do astronauts from other countries have their own menu?”
Of course. And many people address our Academy of Nutrition asking to help to prepare space food. Just recently we had Korean people asking us to help to prepare khimchi for space flight. By the way the first person who tried space food was German Titov ”Astronaut - 2” in 1961. Titov took food three times during his twenty five hours flight. But he returned back to the Earth hungry and complained of some dizziness during the flight. Doctors assumed that it was the result of imponderability, while dietitians said that simple hunger could cause dizziness. Indeed the young healthy man who had to work in extreme conditions was getting unvaried liquid food that obvious was not enough.He had a cup of vegetable soup as a first course, liver mash as a main course and a glass of blackcurrant juice as a third course. Astronauts who flew afterwards, on their returning back complained that their scientifically proven range of food keeps them hungry, that in its turn cramp their work. After that astronauts’ menu has been changed. Beef tongue in aspic, fish pie, Ukrainian borsch, rib steak, Pozharski cutlets, chicken fillet and sandwiches with red and pressed caviar, vobla and fresh products were added.
In addition to professors’ words: at the same time engineers had to solve technical task on excrement disposal. The first astronauts even had special “fitting” lavatories. There is still a “bronze lavatory” made to fit Valentina Tereshkova’s “heavenly” forms in Star City.
In fact it is USSR that is considered to be the space food pioneers. There was a big cooperation created in our country that included more than 20 scientific and production organizations of food industry, meat and dairy industry, chemical and other industries that worked on soups, snacks and drinks recipes developing .For example desserts were prepared in Moldova; these were more than twenty different sorts of juices, 15 kinds of fruit sticks, fruit puree and vegetable sauces. As astronaut Popovich once said, “you can even eat a boot if it in vegetable sauce Moldova.” There were also made health promoting pastilles with vitamins out of fox grape that needn’t to be washed down as they melted in your mouth. Another orbital health promoting and strengthening thing was tea of a famous William Pokhlyobkin. As Kovalenka and Savinyh were getting ready for the flight, their doctor addressed a famous cookery expert with a request to advise something for astronauts’ food ration. Cookery expert recommended to diversify the food ration with traditional dishes and also offered to try special blended tea composition – black Indian tea of first quality and green tea № 95 of Samarkand’s tea factory. He also explained in details how to make it and keep in thermos. This tea was included into food ration. The result was just splendid. Astronauts felt quite good and were full of energy.
The present menu is rather diversified. Every astronaut surely takes traditional dishes with him. For example Russian astronaut Gennady Padalka, chose three dishes made of sander in different sauces and chicken to the flight. American astronaut Michael Fincke ordered canned chicken and fish in tomato sauce. Other astronauts chose borsch, kharcho and rassolnik as the first course. Apart from that Padalka and Fincke ordered pork and beef with mashed potato, barley and vegetables.
And Sheik Muszaphar Shukor the first Malaysian astronaut would take nine different courses of Malaysia cuisine with him to space, all dishes were made according to Muslim regulations. And he treated his space friends in Ramadan time. The following courses were included into Malaysian orbital menu: few poultry dishes including chicken sauté and also fruit desserts - bake dried mango, banana rolls, ginger jelly. As the matter of fact it turned to be impossible to prepare and drink “teh-tarik” a traditional sweet tea with milk, as you need to pour it from one container to another in order to prepare and that is absolutely impossible in zero gravity state.
Chinese astronaut Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng took about fifty different dishes to “Shenzhou 6”. Among the chosen delicacies were beef with orange skin, meat and cuttlefish balls, dehydrated vegetables, in particular, rape with mushrooms and crème soup.
In the meantime, one question was bothering me during our conversation with professor: do astronauts take alcohol to space?
“Alcohol drinks are forbidden in space”, Yuri Alexandrovich replies. It is rumored that in 70ths Birulevo plant (where, by the way, all space food is produced) supplied orbital station with alcohol drinks, including “Stolichnaya” vodka and “KBBK” brandy. But then specialists decided to stop it, explaining that alcoholic fumes in closed space can lead to orbital station conflagration. Fact or fiction? But what I know is that every astronaut has a special case that is not subject to examination. So… Although, I say once again, officially, alcohol drinks are prohibited in space!
It’s a pit… I mean, sorry professor. I want to say “it is so reasonable!”