Irradiated Turkey, Thermostabilized Yams: Thanksgiving Dinner in Space

If you're celebrating the holiday outside of Earth, you'll enjoy a bird that "resembles sliced deli meat" and stuffing that has "a broth-heavy, institutional flavor." 
NASA

There are many wonderful things about being in space. The views. The floating. The many delightful things you can do with water drops. Etc.

You know what's less awesome, though? The food. Sure, you can do a lot of things to space food to make it less space-food-y: You can spice it and sweeten it and try to make it simulate, as much as possible, its Earth-bound counterparts. Ultimately, though, the foodstuffs you're consuming are still desiccated/rehydrated/irradiated/thermostabilized. Which is all compounded by the fact that your taste buds are sort of shot by the whole microgravity thing, anyway.

But it's Thanksgiving! And we celebrate Thanksgiving with our feasting! So how will the six people currently living on the International Space Station, among them two Americans, give their thanks—not so much for the food as with it? Here, per NASA, are the dishes that will grace the only Thanksgiving table whose crazy tablescape is space

Turkey
Technically, it's "irradiated smoked turkey." It comes in a sealed foil pouch. According to the AP, the foodstuff that results "resembles sliced deli meat," except it's "stiffer." 

That's in part because the turkey "functions just like a canned product," NASA food scientist Vicki Kloeris said in an interview this morning. It has "about a three-year shelf life." The turkey the astronauts will be feasting on this time around was produced "probably about two years ago."

Stuffing
The good: It's cornbread stuffing! The former ISS astronaut Tom Marshburn said it was his favorite dish of all the Thanksgiving offeringsThe bad: It "has a broth-heavy, institutional flavor." Also, it comes in a foil pouch. 

Potatoes
The good: "homestyle"! The bad: They're rehydrated. (And also, they come in a foil pouch.) 

Yams
The good: they're candied! The bad: They're thermostabilized. And also, apparently, "bland inside." 

Green beans
They're freeze-dried. And foil-packed. And also "taste like they've been microwaved to death." (Or, as Marshburn puts it, understatedly: "It's not quite like fresh steamed green beans.")

Cranberries
These are, as they often would be on Earth, canned. And, as jelly, they come in hotel-style little jam packs.

Pie
Well, modified pie: cobbler. In this case, cherry-blueberry cobbler. Which comes, Kloeris says, with "a little bit of crust in there." (That said: "It's not quite the same as having a slice of pice.") It comes in a, yep, foil pouch.

You may notice one thing not on the menu above: gravy. Which is, along with apple pie (the crust doesn't work in space), something of a white whale for space-food science. So far, Kloeris notes, NASA scientists haven't been able to get the ultimate Thanksgiving sauce into space-ready form. The result, for the menu above? "We have no gravy, unfortunately."

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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