A sparky-slushy's reflections on the year

Feasting and friendship

This will be my final entry, as by the time this is published I will have likely returned to a much warmer climate. While that date is yet to be confirmed, this is Antarctica and Murphy’s Law could learn a thing or two from this amazing continent.

You’re not at Casey station until you set foot on the blue ice runway, and you’re not back until you can smell the eucalyptus from the cargo door.

My colleagues encouraged me to write this article about “food on offer when certain expeditioners step above a slushy’s minimum requirements.”

Slushy is a very important community service role that each person on station is rostered for about once a month. It is loved by several, hated by many, and highly sought after by those with questionable sanity, like myself. Usually the role involves cleaning common areas, gash run (taking out the garbage and recycling), fetching provisions from the Green Store and also assisting the chef.

But when the chef has a day off or an expeditioner shows a particular interest in cooking, they are gifted the space to spread their wings in a commercial kitchen serving 30-70 people.

This has revealed talents such as Zack learning to care for and nurture a sourdough starter which has kept us company for some 8 months so far, and may even be passed on to the 76th ANARE personnel who have just started to arrive. He has crafted and glazed, sprinkled and seasoned carbohydrate-rich goodness to delight our senses and replenish our “1st layer of defence against the cold” (i.e. a full belly). I hope he considers opening up an actual branch of his “Newcomb Bay Cafe”, as his meals, starting with fish and chips on Good Friday, kept getting better through the year. On the day of writing this, he made sushi for lunch. I said to him, “If your flight happens to be delayed and you keep making things like this sushi, I swear I’ll go and sabotage the runway to keep you back just a bit longer.”

Jasmin the “Silent Ninja in the Corridors” (of a talent praised by light sleepers who wake up when doors are closed a bit too hard) woos us with traditional Bangladeshi dishes that take all day and a colourful mix of spices to prepare, along with the last resort of whatever’s left in the pantry and the freezer this far into the season. Her meals have been nothing short of delightful.

Yet not everything is about the flair. As someone who overcomplicates most things, I have come to love and appreciate that Terry (affectionately known by his catchphrase “Yeah Mate”) takes much pride in his pancakes with berries and whipped cream. He educates us time and time again on how to cook the perfect steak: three minutes on the first side and four on the second, or is it the other way around? … I may never know, as it’s his signature dish that he knows how to do well every time. Besides, I would never understand which three veggies make the perfect combination to serve it with on any given night.

I like to think my claim to fame is in my marinades, or making my mother's apricot chicken recipe from scratch. We just don't have some of the ingredients down here so improvisation has been necessary! I’m proud of my baklava too. Brett has even told me that my cheesecakes are a one hit wonder, before personally inquiring if am I making cheesecake again …

I would also really like to express something else important from the last 12 months.

In the last year I’ve cried from joy and from sorrow. I’ve been blown away by the consideration of my colleagues/dinner guests/housemates. I’ve been chased down the hallway by a friend when in one of my less-than-perfect moments I grumpily shouted at him, “No, YOU come here and give ME a hug.” (I lost that race, which meant I won.)

And I’ve been loved and accepted so many times, which has helped me step up and take my turn supporting others when they needed it most.

At the end of all this I’ve made friends, some of which I may unfortunately never hear from again. And they will be in my thoughts and stories as I chat over a freshly prepared meal made for another member of the 75th ANARE, when they happen to let me know: “I’m visiting your area. What’s your address?”​

- Brenden Sainty