Moon Soup: The Story Of The Most Famous Broth In Space
Image Credit: Facebook/@chaletsuzanne

Chandrayaan-3’s successful landing has brought the focus back onto the moon. The moon looms large over earthly matters — from time and the tides, to festivals and food. While there are foods that pay ode to the moon through their names — mooncakes, moonlight noodles, half-moon dumplings — in the case of one particular dish, the influence is more literal and direct. We’re talking about Moon Soup. 

Moon Soup’s original identity is “Soup Romaine”, and it was created in the kitchens of the Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, Florida. Cheese baron James L Kraft and a couple — Carl and Bertha Hinshaw — had initially bought the sprawling property with the idea of building a luxurious residential resort. But Kraft ultimately stepped away from the deal, and Carl Hinshaw died. Bertha, who dabbled in gourmet cooking, decided to open up an exclusive restaurant in the same space instead. 

With her penchant for serving lavish French cuisine on her gorgeous collection of crockery, picked up from around the world, plus the conveniences of a public airport and a runway, lovely grounds, shooting range and a cosy inn (for guests who wished to stay for longer) — Chalet Suzanne soon became  favourite of celebrity patrons. Robert Redford was a frequent guest. So too was James Irwin — an astronaut who would soon become the eighth man to walk on the moon in August 1971.

Chalet Suzanne was known for its repertoire of soups; they proved to be such crowd-pleasers that Bertha’s son opened a cannery on the grounds. Soup Romaine got its name from the lettuce that was its star ingredient, alongside spinach, heavy cream and tabasco. (Bertha’s recipe, which she used for over 40 years, had no fewer than 24 ingredients.) It was creamy and rich, and Irwin loved it so much that when he was asked about his special food requests for the historic Apollo 15 mission, he picked Chalet Suzanne’s Soup Romaine.

Rita Rapp, “a physiologist who took charge of planning astronauts’ meals from the Apollo programme of the late 1960s through the early shuttle flights of the 1980s”, found that Soup Romaine met NASA’s nutritional standards and began the tough exercise of adapting it for space travel, including freeze-drying the final product. Food in space had come a long way from the days of Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn squeezing tubes of pureed “dishes” right into their mouths.

Soup Romaine grew to be so popular with the Apollo 15 crew, that it was also included on the Apollo 16 and Apollo-Soyuz flights. At the request of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Chalet Suzanne created cans with a special label, rechristening the now renowned contents: “Moon Soup”.