The Space Age launched a quaint, coastal Florida town into cosmic fame when it became the site of the space program and the wives of future engineers, scientists and astronauts jumped on the bandwagon. Their primary concerns would soon expand beyond what was for dinner and help capture the history of the groundbreaking era.
The Out of This World Cook Book takes you back in time to when the wives of Cocoa Beach entertained visitors with delicious meals, casseroles and Jello salads while worrying about their husbands orbiting in space. This homemade cookbook is made up of recipes reminiscent of your mother’s or grandmother’s cooking, with passages detailing the history of the Cocoa Beach Space Station and those who kept it thriving.
First American suborbital flight, Freedom 7, launched in 1961. It drew a large crowd of spectators to the Florida beach, where they had a good vantage point. The following year, the Cocoa Beach Pier was built and locals witnessed more departures.
These first spacewalks begged the important question: As astronauts spent more and more time in orbit, what would they eat up there? Mary Leeds, a contributor to the cookbook, noted that, “A roast beef sandwich wouldn’t do, although an astronaut did contraband one on board.” Experts at NASA spent a lot of time and money finding new ways to store, heat and enjoy meals in space; meanwhile, the wives of the crew kept the home fires burning as they battled their husbands’ odd schedules and tended to guests who were excited to visit the new Space Age hotspot (as expected of them, they were, after all the 60s).
In 1969, Apollo 11 from Cape Kennedy (now known as the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral) and the Space Coast was the prime location to view this historic moment. Cocoa Beach is about 14 miles from the space center and visitors flocked to the area by the thousands and VIPs from around the world came to congratulate the families. Women had to take it up a notch. They went from cooking simple, light dinners to preparing gourmet feasts for cocktail parties that would host foreign diplomats, celebrities and old friends.
“These recipes are the Out of This World recipes of the Down to Earth people and the Down to Earth recipes of the Out of This World people,” notes the introduction.
“The Out of This World Cookbook”
Published in 1973, “The Out of This World Cookbook” was put together by the Cocoa Beach Women’s Club as a fundraiser for the Cocoa Beach Space Coast Community Center. When it was published, each copy sold for $6, plus a dollar for postage, which translates to roughly $40 in today’s money. The Women’s Club wanted the book to serve as a souvenir of the space program, Cape Kennedy and the Space Coast, and while that was achieved, it also functioned as a time stamp of what life was like 50 years ago.
While the vintage cookbook may not look appetizing compared to the beautifully published ones on your shelf, it’s full of heart and history. The cover image was contributed by NASA, and illustrations by artists Muriel Hallett and Dorothy Taylor add depth to the many pages of text.
The cookbook also features verse from Alice Dishman, who contributed such gems as:
“It was the astronauts who told me
The earth is not made of green cheese
So pass me some Swiss, Edam or Brie
From our good planet Earth, please.“
She also asked for recipes, asking Ron Evans, an astronaut Apollo 17what he would like to eat when he returned to Earth.
He replied: “Dear Alice, I’m sorry, but I don’t cook – However, some good old steak and eggs would taste good. Best wishes, Ron Evans.”
You will be spoiled for choice with over 380 recipes to choose from. Dishes within this book are divided into whimsical categories like VIP Sip, Sip and Dive, Satellite Salad, Manna from Heaven, and Laney Rockets. Because many of the families involved in the space program were from all over the world, there is a fantastic variety of recipes from England, Germany, Mexico, Hungary, and other parts of the Americas, such as Hawaii. Each entry begins with who provided the dish and how they were connected to the space station, then lists the ingredients and steps for making the recipes.
There is an element of familiarity in the descriptions, as the instructions are quite informal, as if you were told from memory. They may not be all-inclusive, but there are certainly some winners in the mix, like teriyaki steak, Mexican cornbread, apricot brandy, and desserts. While you may not try all the recipes (unless you’re a big fan of roast pheasant or roast liver), just browsing the pages is fun and you can get a sense of what Joan Aldrin’s kitchen looked like on Wednesday. at night. Ever wonder what President Nixon had for dessert? Mrs. Nixon’s avocado salad might be worth a try, although the mashed avocado with lemon gelatin doesn’t seem to be for the faint of heart.
It certainly wasn’t the easiest life as a housewife back then, let alone for these unsung heroines who certainly did more than they got credit for. As they supported their spouses through one of the most innovative periods in American history, they cared for the children, fueled the growth of their once small town, and always put a delicious dinner on the table.
“The Out of This World Cookbook is a joy to read and even more fun to put into practice. If you want to bring something new to the table, looking for a space themed gift (or a culinary one), or are interested in what it was like to eat like an astronaut during the dawn of space exploration, you can’t go wrong by picking up a copy. It’s not easy to find, but copies have been floating around the internet for some time. Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and vintage bookstores also have limited copies. So when you see one, grab it fast.
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