Food Science

The Garlic Bread That Went to Space and Back Again

April 24, 2018

“This is not going to be a normal video.” These are the first words in a video that turns out to not be a normal video. It's not normal because, in it, a scientist sends an exposed piece of garlic bread to the outer edge of stratosphere, roughly 21 miles above the Earth's surface.

To know me is to know that I’m obsessed with what astronauts eat. I don’t pay much attention to the news of a new celestial discovery, but start talking freeze-dried ice cream or protein bars designed to be eaten at zero gravity and I’m all ears. So imagine my pleasure upon discovering this video. The experiment was uploaded by Tom Scott, a YouTuber whose channel explores oddities, many of them with a scientific bent. He's attempted to simulate his own small-scale earthquake or investigate what sea level really means. But in this video, he takes his technological prowess and scientific savvy to new heights. Literally.

As you can see above, a lot of the footage stars a half loaf of garlic bread strapped to a styrofoam bed as it's lifted to the outer edges of our atmosphere by a balloon. It climbs higher and higher, past a thick layer of clouds until there it is, floating against a dark and star speckled firmament. It hovers high, high, high above the horizon line and then, when the balloon deflates, begins its descent. Still strapped ever so securely to its styrofoam platform, the garlic bread hurtles back to Earth where the scientists eagerly await its return. They find its landing place and taste the garlic bread, which now knows things we humans can barely begin to comprehend. Their verdict: it tastes cold.

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The icy temperatures of the atmosphere's outer layers have rendered the garlic loaf practically frozen. It doesn’t, Scott is quick to point out, even remotely match up to the warm and buttery earthbound garlic bread that they preserved for comparison. They're probably right, the space loaf may not taste as good, but it sure does have a great story to tell.

Would you taste a star-gazing loaf of garlic bread? Tell me what you think in the comments.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

1 Comment

Em H. April 24, 2018
What an experiment! If you like to hear about food in space, The Splendid Table did a short episode on that very topic on March 6th. It was fascinating. I love your articles!