Cosmonauts aboard the Soviet space station are dining on compote of pigeon and oxtail fondue after the French made their most sumptuous effort to put haute cuisine into outer space.
Only wine and those famous French sauces - which would float away in the gravity-free atmosphere - are missing from the menu.Twenty-three products ranging from bread rolls to ham and fruit pates are stocked aboard the Soyuz-TM-7 space module, which blasted off Saturday from Soviet Central Asia. The spacecraft is headed for the Mir space station, where five Soviet cosmonauts and French astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien will live until Dec. 21. (See story on A1.)
"We looked for difficult things to make, things that are out of the ordinary, that give some pleasure," said chef Lucien Vanel, who prepared four gourmet dishes for the astronauts.
Vanel's creations, made with the help of chef Pierre Roudge, include compote of pigeon with dates and dried raisins, duck with artichokes and oxtail fondue with tomatoes and pickles. The food is all canned, "to be opened like you open fois gras," Vanel said.
"This is not food to be eaten every day," the chef said. "It's not to survive on, just to give them a little pleasure."
But he said he regretted a good bottle of wine could not make the journey into space.
"French cuisine is inconceivable without wine," he said.
Saute de veau Marengo and cheeses also are making the trip, along with high-energy bars made of nuts, coffee and chocolate.
The project was sponsored by several French food companies. The chefs worked under three limitations: the dishes had to be small and contain neither bones nor sauce.
Sauce would be transformed into flying droplets, Vanel said, so the meat was made to absorb the sauce during cooking.
This is not the first time French cuisine has gone into orbit. In 1982, Chretien shared his country's dishes with Soviet colleagues in space, and in 1985 French astronaut Patrick Baudry treated fellow astronauts aboard the U.S. shuttle Discovery to a meal "a la francaise."