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This past weekend the beau and I headed down to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia for his grandfather’s 80th birthday party (see trip photos).  If you haven’t had the chance to visit this historical tourist trap, I suggest it.  The environment and colonial monuments really do give you a different take on eighteenth century American life. As with most pre-modern American landmarks, Colonial Williamsburg did exhibit the slightly “unknown to the modern man” romanitc feel, but what felt different was the lack of granduer throughout the colony. Our self-guided foot tour comprised of a visit to the blacksmith, the tinsmith, the magazine, the apothecarist, the gardens, and lastly the stop that most peaked my interest, the Governor’s palace. Within the palace we experienced the kitchen, the cellar, and the preserved foods!! For this segment of “Pickles goes to” I figured I would delve into food preservation before the times of modern refrigeration.

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You knew something related to science and canning was coming right?  While eagerly searching for the starship Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum a few Fridays back, I found myself thinking about food preservation for outer-space. Upon further investigation, I learned that in fact though American-supplied food is typically freeze-dried or dehydrated, many Russian-supplied foods are put up in cans and tins for food consumption (and reheating) in space. Space food can be processed in one of two ways: (1) thermostabilization: a method similar to canning, that heats foods to destroy pathogens, microorganisms, and any enzymes that may cause spoilage, and (2) electro-resistivity: heating that allows particles and liquids to heat at the same rate and permits the rapid heating of mixtures of high solids fractions (Fryer, 1995). For thermostabalized foods, a special heater is required, as you can’t just throw these pouches/cans into a martian microwave. The Russian space program has about 100 different food items such as fish products (pickled or spiced perch) for breakfast, a variety of soups, lamb with vegetables, sturgeon, borsch, goulash, curds, and nuts.  Russian canned goulash floating in zero gravity space! Cool, right?

But that’s not all!  Just one more tiny tangent from canning… “StarShip Gardens” are currently being developed by NASA.  The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) is a space bound planter box capable of growing plants (initially lettuce strains and other salad-type crops) fit for astronaut consumption.  Veggie is set for deployment to the International Space Station later this year (we will see, this is coming from an agency that postpones satellite missions by 5 to 10s of years).  While this is not NASA’s first attempt to grow plants in space (see Diary of a Space Zucchini), it is the first attempt to grow space crops for cosmonaut feasting.  

Now that space science is out of my system (for today), I’ll be back to posting earthling recipes next week! 🙂