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Shrimp Cocktail, a Delicacy in Space

Redditor Elephantastronaut1 started working at NASA and posted a gallery of fantastic photos on imgur about her experience so far. This one above, of a serving of shrimp cocktail to eat in space, caught my eyes. She wrote "Actual astronaut food. The is a shrimp cocktail, said to be a delicacy in space due to it being spicy."

Why do astronauts crave spicy food? Blame the Charlie Brown effect, said Michele Perchonok of NASA's food science program. Perchonok explained to The Salt blog at NPR (blogged about on Neatorama a while ago):

Why this sudden interest in hot peppers? Part of the reason may be that after arriving in space, astronauts lose their sense of smell, which largely governs the pleasurable taste of food. An example of this is coffee. "If you hold your nose and sip your coffee, you're getting just a bitter liquid," says Hunter.

Why do astronauts lose their sense of smell, and what's this got to do with a preference for fiery food? No one is sure, but there are some plausible ideas.

Michele Perchonok leads NASA's food science program. She says one possibility is what happens to the fluids in your body in a weightless environment. On Earth, gravity tends to drag those fluids downward, toward your feet. In space they go everywhere, including to your head, so after arriving in space, you begin to look like a cartoon character.

"We call it the Charlie Brown phase, because their faces have gotten more round," says Perchonok. Round, because they are retaining fluid in their heads. "And as they retain fluid, they also feel like they have a cold or they're congested, and again they're not smelling as much."


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