A recently hectic calendar has meant no time to go to the supermarket, which isn't such a bad thing as it has shown us the back of our kitchen cupboards for the first time in a while. As we chomp through the ancient stocks a few surprises have come to light. One such was Astronaut Ice Cream, given to me as a Xmas present a year or two ago, but still good till December 2010 if you believe the foil sachet. And yes, this was in the cupboard, not the freezer.

It's real ice cream, but freeze dried, so all the water has been removed. I expected to find a powder to which I'd add water for some surreally room temperature ice creamy experience, but no. Inside the feather light pack (contents: 19g) is a single slice of Neapolitan ice cream. It looks like ice cream, but it's completely dry and crisp, with the texture of a really fine, dense foam. And apparently it's "ready to eat" as is.


So I snapped off a piece (actually the block was somewhat shattered to start with) trying not to get shards of ice cream in my eye and popped it in my mouth. It's crunchy to start with, but very quickly turns to dust which immediately combines with the saliva in your mouth to become something like ice cream. However the airy texture has been lost and there's only so much saliva in your mouth, so it's denser and perhaps pastier than the real thing. That said, it tastes the part – no doubt about it. I wonder if freezing the block to start with would add to the ice-creamy experience or just make it weirder.

I can see how the weight saving and longevity of freeze-drying are handy for trips into space, but the astronaut will still need to consume the same total quantity of water so I would have thought that vacuum packed hydrated food would take up less space overall and just be outright nicer. In fact paraphrasing from Wikipedia's article although freeze-dried ice cream was developed on request, it wasn't that popular, and was only taken into space once on Apollo 7 in 1968." It was a good present though and a conversation starter.

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