Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What to Pack for Space: Ghost Peppers

I know that we, as humans, have got a lot on our to-do list these days, but can we move human space travel and colonization up a bit on that list?  It is the 21st century now, after all. 

First, work on that space elevator.  Seriously.  A Tokyo firm did announce last week that they want to build one - an elevator to take passengers to a space station via a carbon nanotube pulley - by 2050.   It would carry 30 people and run at 125 mph (which would be a seven and a half day trip to reach the station) and make transporting anything to space much safer and more efficient and generally awesome.  The plan, alas, has no estimates for cost, no idea where to build it, or no plan for who would pay for it.  And anyway,  Arthur C. Clarke said that the space elevator will be built "about 10 years after everyone stops laughing".

And once you're in space?  It turns out you'll be craving something different to eat!  After arriving in space, astronauts report that their sense of smell is quite diminished.  The loss of the sense of smell might be due the the effect of microgravity on bodily fluids - instead of being pulled downwards, fluids get retained in the head (giving the faces a rounder look, hence the term "Charlie Brown phase"), making astronauts feel congested. Or, spacecrafts might smell really weird and distracting.  Maybe eating out of pouches takes away from eating enjoyment.  In any case, tastes in space changes

What might you want to eat in space, if you can't smell too well?  Something really spicy!  Like lots of hot sauce (check out Peggy Whitson's ISS journal entry) and shrimp cocktail (with horseradish sauce).

So when Foodgoat goes up in space (not me, I get motion sickness just blogging about the space elevator), I'll be sure to pack him some ghost peppers.  In 2007, the Bhut Jolokia (aka ghost pepper) was certified as the world's hottest chili pepper, 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce (though since then, others have topped it).

I don't think the ghost peppers we recently acquired are quite this hot (where the peppers are grown seems to make a big difference in its heat), but it has a great ingredient in cooking.  It adds a lot of heat but also a lot of flavor, so it's fun to use.  We'd use it more, except we have to cook for the toddler too.  But maybe she'll go up a space elevator someday, and will want ghost peppers to take with her too. 

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