I worried a bit about the food that we would have here on Mars in the lead up to the mission. The food at MDRS (where I did my previous Mars mission) left something to be desired and the first mission at this habitat was a study looking at the palatability of food for Mars missions, so it can be an issue. The first week we were all a little tentative learning to cook with the ingredients we have here. Gallon jugs of freeze dried vegetables, big cans of freeze dried meat and then things like pasta, sugar, rice, flour and other grains make up the basis of most of our meals. Our ability to cook with the stuff we have has vastly improved over the past few weeks. I am unquestionably eating better here than I did living on my own.
The cooking schedule we decided on is each dinner has a chef, sous chef and a couple people on clean up. We have leftovers for dinner whenever we need to clear out our mini fridge for the next round of meals, which has been about one a week. This means on average each person is in charge of cooking only one meal a week and helping with another. Since each person doesn’t cook very often we’ve gotten into a bit of a thing doing pretty elaborate (and delicious) meals.
Our kitchen isn’t anything fancy but generally has worked quite well. We mostly cook on a couple induction hotplates and an oversized toaster oven, though we also have a bread maker, rice cooker, microwave, electric kettle, electric griddle, electric wok and a pop up toaster. The biggest problem is that they undersized the wiring/breakers and you pop a circuit breaker if you use more than two of those at any one time.
For breakfast and lunch people do whatever they are feeling. At least once a week someone has been motivated to make a big breakfast. People will also do dessert whenever they feel inspired; we’ve had cookies, brownies, bread pudding and even handmade sherbet and vanilla ice-cream. Our commander, Martha, has been really good about making bread and yogurt a few times a week so we usually have some of that around well.
Typically I’ve been eating cereal with powdered milk for breakfast. Lunch is usually leftovers, peanut butter on a tortilla and dried fruit and nuts, boxed mac and cheese, or just a clif bar. The process for making a real meal from dehydrated ingredients usually starts with rehydrating everything. This takes a couple hours if you just pour hot water over it and let it sit, less if you simmer it. We generally try to go with the former due to energy concerns. We get our power from solar cells and batteries that they charge during the day. Since cooking dinner is the most energy intensive thing we do we try to limit our power use and shift everything we can from night time to the afternoon when we have fully charged the batteries and have excess power generation capacity.
The vegetables, fruit and meat turn out fairly well if a bit lacking in texture. The cheese is alright, we’ve had some pretty good pizza and I managed a solid quesadilla as well, but you aren’t going to be putting it on crackers. Butter comes in the form of anhydrous (without water) butter fat, it’s a bit strange but seems to do all the right things. Most of the other dairy (powdered milk in particular) is pretty bad. We have egg crystals for eggs and they make really good scrambled eggs and work fine in baked goods but don’t work as well as a binder as real eggs.
In terms of what we’ve made while we’ve been here, we’ve done Indian, Thai, Persian, Ghanaian, Chinese, Hawaiian, Greek/Turkish, Russian/Azerbaijani a few times, Mexican a couple times, a few Italianish dishes plus some more American stuff included some solid southern and general comfort food.
We’ve already run out of a few critical ingredients that are limiting our options for the time being, tomato paste and chicken stock being the most critical, but otherwise we have a pretty massive pantry. We get our first resupply mid next month and have already given them a large list of the items we would like.
Last night I made a Greek/Turkish spread. Turkey Shawarma (though not on a spit or grill unfortunately), falafel, hummus, yogurt sauce and homemade pita
Other meals I’ve made so far:
Pasta with lemon and chicken
Red beans and rice
Chicken fried rice
Plus one big eggs, hashbrowns and bacon breakfast
I’m plotting a few more elaborate meals but I’m waiting on some unusual ingredients in the next resupply before I can make them. I’m making stuff here that I would never attempt to make a home just because we don’t have the option to go buy things.