The Celluloid Pantry: What's Cooking in Space?

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With all the recent talk about what NASA types eat in orbit (Swedish meatballs whipped up by Rachael Ray and jambalaya BAM!-ed out by Emeril), and following last month's furor over just what and how much astronauts drink, it seems an appropriate time for The Celluloid Pantry to take a telescopic look at space food.

There are so many movies to choose from—and we want to hear some favorite picks from you (TV counts too)—but to get things started, here are three from the 50s, 60s, and 70s:

Forbidden Planet (1956)
“Whatever that lunch was, it was certainly delicious.”

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In this pre-space program classic, a robot named Robby (right) does kitchen patrol on a desolate planet. When Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen, left) and his crew marvel at the lavish spread their host Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon, center) lays out in his stylish mid-century modern pad, props go out to the droid. Not only does Robby cook, but, amazingly, he also synthesizes all the raw ingredients, thanks to “a small built-in chemical lab” in his gut. “Sounds like a housewife’s dream!” exclaims one of the crew.

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Airline food goes futuristic.
On an interplanetary Pan Am flight, helmeted, pantsuited stewardesses serve up liquid meals from compartmentalized containers. Each weightlessness-proof course is equipped with a built-in straw, making it all look uncannily similar to the Tetra Pak juice boxes in kids’ lunches today. Only here the flavors are fish, French fry, coffee, carrot, corn, pea, strawberry, and cheese.

Star Wars (1977)
Family dinner-table tension happens on other planets too.
Tatooine-ian farm boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, top) wants to join the Academy, but Uncle Owen says he has to wait until after the harvest. Luke ruminates as he pours himself a beverage from a 70s space-age white plastic pitcher with a molded handle (can anyone out there ID it for us?). A little later on Aunt Beru busies herself in the kitchen, pulling apart stalks from a strange looking vegetable (fennel!) and dropping them into a futuristic stew pot. She and Owen discuss the Luke issue over the whirring and blip-bleep-blopping of dinner being cooked.

What’s your favorite space food scene?

- Nora

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Nora Maynard is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her recent work has appeared in Salon, Drunken Boat, and The Millions. She recently completed her ninth marathon and her first novel, Burnt Hill Road. Nora wrote for The Kitchn from 2006 to 2011.