Saturday, June 7, 2008

Food-related entry

Gally, originally uploaded by tsaven.

If I had to make a list of everything that's suprised me on my travels down here, the quality of the food would have to be pretty high on the list. I was expecting a food quality somewhere between MREs and high-school cafeteria food. Boy, was I ever wrong.

The food is is GOOD. Like, really good. And there's so much of it! It's actually a problem. I'm a scrawny guy, always have been, used to eating only once a day out of shear laziness. And now I get here, where they're throwing hot meals at you five times a day!

Breakfast is from 6:30-8am, and consists of something baked, like french toast, or pancakes, or english muffins, or something like that. There will also always be something egg-related (scrambled, fried, etc), something potato-based (often hash browns or grits or a green/yellow peppers and potato scramble), as well as breakfast meats and a pile of various sorts of fresh fruits (which are abundant here, thanks to the monthly resupply). And of course, there's a ton of different cerals and bagels and breads for toast and coffees and teas and etc.

We'll have our first break at 10am, and often the cooks will make some sort of a coffee cake, or put out the leftovers from breakfast, or some smoothies and other snackfoods.

Lunch is Noon-1pm, and varies every day. Sometimes it's deli day, with a huge selection of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies, and everything else that could possibly go on a sandwich. Or they'll pre-make hot sandwiches of some sort, or have soups and stews, as well as salads and other rabbit food.

Second break is at 3pm, and again, they'll make some sort of snack foods, often fruit and veggie platters, or fresh breads and cheeses, etc.

Dinner is from 5:30-6:30, and again, is something wilding different every night. Few nights ago was mexican, so it was a make-your-own-tacos-and burritos, and recently we had tuna-noodle casserole, and last night was psudo-thanksgiving, with those two big turkeys, and mashed potatos, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, etc.

I'd say the most problematic part of this whole thing is the deserts. Diane (our cook, in the picture) ran a bakery for a while, so every night, there's some sort of new cake, or pie, or zucchini bread, or a big pile of cupcakes sitting out.

And almost EVERYTHING is from scratch, hardly anything is frozen, it's all fresh (at least, right now it is, as the resupply got here last week). I mean, even the buckets of whipped cream served next to the giant tubs of ice cream is made from scratch.

In normal life, not Antarctica, you're always constrained by SOMETHING in relation to food. Either it's not very good, or it's too much of a pain in the butt, or it's too expensive, or there's not enough. But here? It's all there, it's zero-effort, it's all absurdly good, and it's all free.

Most of that is the advantage of being at Palmer Station, which at a maximum capacity of 40 people (and we're at around 38 now), can have much more varied, unique, and better food then South Pole (up to 300 people) or McMurdo (up to 1200 people).

There's downsides to such a small station, though. Like that there's no dedicated kitchen cleaners. So everyone, at least once a week, takes turns on GASH. Officially, GASH is a Navy term meaning "Gally And Scullery Help", but the more common translation here is "Garbage And Sh*t"

Every night, there's between 4-6 people on GASH duty, which basically involves cleaning the kitchen and dining area, helping with the pots and pans, sweeping, mopping, putting away leftovers, etc. Generally takes around an hour or so, depending on how many new people who haven't done it before are GASHing. I've been on GASHes where it takes upwards of two hours (like on cross-town dinners, where the ship's crew comes over to eat).

It's not too bad, though, because everyone, without exepetion, does it at least once a week, station manager included. And people do their best to liven it up, they always put on music, and sometimes with some, um, assistance. There's a group of guys here that do what they call "Tequila GASH". Which basically means that every time a song comes on that referances, or is about tequila, they do a shot.

It started to become clear that they might have a problem when they started stacking the playlists with every tequila-related song they could find, by the end having a whole playlist with only tequila songs on it. It got even worse when they started editing themselves into normal songs to make them tequila songs, such as:

"Wastin' away, again, in TEQUILAvill . . . looking for my lost shaker of TEQUILA"

"Bye, bye miss american pie, drove my chevy to the levy but the levy was dry, them good ol' boys were drinking TEQUILA and TEQUILA singing this 'ill be the day that I TEQUILA"

"Aaaaaaaand IIIIIIIIIIII, will always, loooooove yooooooooouuuuTEQUILA"

"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is TEQUILA, and she's buuuuuuying the stairway, to TEQUILA"

Lets just say that they normally run out of tequila well before they run out of songs, thankfully. But by the end, they're all usually quite hammered.

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