Monday, January 7, 2008

How to Eat Like an Antarctican

Down here in Antarctica, eating is very important. We have to stay energized to face the cold weather, hike through the field to do our research, and keep our morale high. So I will dedicate this entry to that wonderful thing called FOOD!

When we're at McMurdo, we eat in the Galley. It runs like a cafeteria, where we load up our trays with food and sit and big tables together. There is a great staff of people that prepare all of our meals for us. The menus are similar to what you eat at home. We have cereal, fruit, and pancakes for breakfast. At lunch you can have sandwiches, fruit, or a hot dish. Dinner usually has a few options of hot foods, plus dessert. And, the most important part of eating at the Galley is Frosty Boy. That's our soft-serve ice cream machine. Frosty Boy is the most popular stop, and the crowd gets angry when he breaks down!

The funny thing about food in Antarctica is that we can't just go to the grocery store and have a big selection of fresh foods. All of our food is shipped here from the U.S. or New Zealand. What we're eating this summer was shipped here at the end of last summer. So, fresh foods are not very common here. The menu at the Galley is very normal, except most of the ingredients are not fresh. Most of the things we eat were frozen, canned, or dehydrated before arriving. Occasionally, a new shipment of "freshies" will come in, and we'll have all sorts of fruit and vegetables. You've never seen a community of people get so excited about bananas! They actually have to put signs next to the banana bowl asking everyone to please take only one.

When we're at the field camps, we cook for ourselves. Each field camp has a stock of dehydrated and canned foods, and we also pack in our own. Here's what our "pantry" looks like at Bonney Camp right now. We have a big selection of dehydrated grains, such as rice, pasta, cous cous, and potatoes. There's also canned meats, dehydrated soups and vegetables, lots of fruit juice, and canned beans.
There are, of course, some favorite camp foods that are popular to eat. Cabin bread, which is basically a giant cracker, is used to replace real bread. It doesn't go stale (because it basically comes stale). Mike eats 3 pieces of cabin bread each morning, topped with peanut butter and jelly. Look at how happy it makes him at 7:00 AM!
If you're eating lunch at the camp, the most popular food is Ramen soup. Many days we're in the field during lunch, and pack something to carry along. Usually we bring beef jerky, granola bars, dried fruit, and chocolate. Cadbury chocolate bars and Slim Jims are a field camp "must have." Sometimes, to prevent your taste buds from getting bored, you find that a little creativity goes a long way. Here's Mike's new lunch-time invention: Slim Jim flavored Ramen!
We are also able to bring frozen meat and vegetables to the field. So, dinners are usually much better than breakfast and lunch. We can bring out chicken, fish, pork, and mixed vegetables: things that we didn't have to add water to before eating! Our frozen foods are stored in our camp "refrigerator", which is just a cellar outside. It generally stays below freezing, so it works perfectly and requires no electricity!

Dinner is definitely my favorite meal, and it's always fun to see how gourmet you can cook using only non-perishable products that have been sitting around camp for years. Here at Bonney Camp, we've even started the Iron Field Chef competition. So far, I'm winning. Tonight for dinner, I made spaghetti with a salmon and clam cream sauce, followed by spice pound cake topped with pecans and a sugar glaze. It's not bad, given the fact that we're a five hour airplane flight from the nearest city! And it totally beats Mike's Slim Jim Ramen...

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