When I was in middle school, we went to a space center that allowed us to experience how it felt to be an astronaut. We wore space suits, participated in a space shuttle mission simulation and even got to try space food. The highlight of my trip was when I got to try the astronaut ice cream. It wasn’t the tastiest treat, but for some reason just the idea of eating something that astronauts really ate was so amazing that it didn’t matter if it tasted like chalk and got all over your clothes.
I really shouldn’t have been complaining, because that would have been considered a delicacy to the early age astronauts. They had to suffer with some truly awful space food, before the art of freeze drying became more popular. Early space food mostly consisted of a type of paste that the astronauts sucked up through straws and dry cubes of “food” that had to be rehydrated by the saliva in their mouths.
A turning point for the astronauts was when freeze drying became a usable option. This allowed them to have more variety with their foods, and it preserved the food without having to compromise on the flavor. Much preferred over the paste of yesterday. The rehydrating process was even simplified for them, instead of using their own saliva to rehydrate the food they just injected the food package with a water gun. Most space missions now come complete with a kitchen unit and a type of special tray to prepare their meals in.
Nowadays the food that astronauts eat resembles pretty closely to what we eat at home, and includes a lot of choices. The astronauts go through a series of taste tests and get to customize their menu. Some missions even get gourmet meals made by professional chefs that have been known to include Thai chicken and Swedish meatballs. A big step up from my basic diet of ramen noodles three times a day.