Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Taste for ADVENTURE ; Ever Wonder What the Astronauts Eat? How about 18th-Century Explorers?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Taste for ADVENTURE ; Ever Wonder What the Astronauts Eat? How about 18th-Century Explorers?

Article excerpt

When the space shuttle Atlantis crew left the orbiting space station on Sept. 17 and returned to earth, they left behind thousands of pounds of food, clothing, and other items for the next space travelers. This follows a method of providing supplies for travelers called "caching," a method used by travelers for thousands of years.

In early November, American astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev will launch into space and move into the space station as its first long-term residents. The food left by the Atlantis crew will be all they have to sustain them until the next supply ship arrives. That's something they have in common with fellow explorers from hundreds of years ago: no grocery stores, restaurants, or drive-through windows along the way.

If you and your family wanted to drive to Cape Canaveral (Fla.) to watch a shuttle launch, you might pack a few snacks and drinks in the car. But even if the trip took days, you wouldn't worry about where to find food. Stores and cafes would be available at practically every freeway exit.

When Sir Alexander Mackenzie set off from Fort Chippewa in Canada to find a route to the Pacific Ocean in 1793, there weren't any roads, let alone cafes. He and his group had to hunt, fish, or harvest their food along the way. And they took a lot of supplies with them to help out.


One item they carried has been a popular "traveling food" for thousands of years. They carried bags of pemmican received in trade from native tribes. Pemmican is made by drying or smoking meat and then pounding it into powder. It is mixed with hot fat, cooled, and then cut into cakes. Buffalo or deer meat was often used by natives throughout North America. Sometimes berries were added to sweeten the taste. Pemmican lasts for years, so it was very helpful on long trips. Peoples in South Africa make something similar, calling it tasajo.

You may have tried something like it on your own trips, if you've ever bought beef jerky. South American natives made charqui by dipping meat in brine (salt water), then drying it. Travelers often pounded it between stones to soften it before boiling and eating it. The jerky in the term beef jerky comes from the term charqui.


Many of the foods eaten on the space station are dried, so that they will last longer. Some are freeze-dried - cooled quickly to freeze the water, then heated in a vacuum so the water evaporates without melting. Then water is added when it's time to eat them. Pioneers and explorers couldn't freeze-dry their food, but they did have their own form of a bouillon cube. A concentrated stock made from meat trimmings was dried to a near-solid state. It could keep for years. …

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