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Ingredients For A Homestyle Thanksgiving, 200 Miles Above The Earth

For Thanksgiving, NASA's space food experts always try to make sure astronauts get to enjoy traditional holiday fare, even if its not exactly home cooking. And being so far from home, astronauts can get pretty attached to their comfort foods.

This year, Kevin Ford, the commander of Expedition 34 and currently working at the International Space Station, says he has the ingredients to make one favorite Thanksgiving dish the NASA nutritionists may not have anticipated: Candied yams with marshmallows.

The yams are thermostablized and come in a plastic pouch.

And as Ford explains in the video sent down from the station (above), he also has a container of marshmallow cream that was left behind by his colleague Sunita Williams, who returned to Earth earlier this week.

Space food.
/ courtesy NASA
courtesy NASA
Space food.

Williams recounted her love of eating marshmallow cream sandwiches in space on a previous mission blog: "Peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich on a tortilla! ... My ultimate is a thin spreading of peanut butter, then about ½ inch of marshmallow cream...Heaven."

"If I combine this candied yams with this little marshmallow cream, this is something I think a lot of people like to do at Thanksgiving-time," said Ford, who plans to share this American tradition with his two Russian crewmates. "We'll have a little Thanksgiving feast on board."

Other items on the menu include packets of irradiated smoked turkey, dehydrated cornbread dressing, baked beans and a cranapple dessert, he says.

Russian contributions to the feast will include mashed potatoes with onion and an apple dessert, he adds.

Thanksgiving is an off-duty day for the station, so Ford will be able to enjoy the holiday. Cooking won't take too long, though. He showed off a package of dehydrated corn and noted that all he had to do was add hot water: "After about fifteen minutes, it's nice and tasty and ready to eat again."

Space food has come a long way since "cubes and tubes," and someday, astronauts might even grow their own on Mars. But for now, it's all prepackaged like this.

Last year, the seven astronauts orbiting Earth in the space shuttle Atlantis didn't get to eat the traditional meal because the mission was delayed. They were originally supposed to be home before Thanksgiving.

But space shuttle Atlantis commander Charlie Hobaugh was philospohical about it: "... I don't care what they give us," he added. "It could be beef brisket. It could be tofu. It doesn't matter to me. We're going to enjoy ourselves no matter what we do."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a NPR science correspondent.
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