How to keep everyone fed when you live over 4000km from the nearest shops

It's a Chef's life - an inside view from Kerryn our station chef

Cooking in Antarctica is a challenging and rewarding experience for those of us who dare to venture into the frozen continent. Some of the weird and wonderful things about cooking in Antarctica are:

You need to be very creative and resourceful with the ingredients you have, as there is no fresh produce or local cuisine available. Spinach makes a great pretend parsley.

Planning and ordering your supplies months in advance is important, ensuring it is ready to be packed and put on board the ship. One large order will last the whole year, this includes cleaning products, loo paper, balloons, birthday candles, hydroponics equipment and seeds and anything else that will help the next team make it through with a certain level of comfort and nutrition. This is received once a year in a big multiday resupply with many hands-on deck.

On station, the food it kept in various storage facilities, a warm store to stop the dry goods freezing, cool rooms set at different temperatures and humidity to store a variety of fruit and veg. One very large freezer for meat, veg, seafood, butter and of course ice-cream.

A separate fridge for eggs which have been oiled to help preserve their shelf life. We are still eating “fresh eggs” that were delivered in October last year. At this point of the season, they get cracked into a separate bowl before getting put in the cake mix as some don’t make the cut and make you gag, always a fun one to encounter.

A large part of the beginning of the year is put towards preserving what fruit and veg we have. This can include peeling, chopping, and freezing sliced onions, and pickling, dehydrating, blanching, and freezing various fruits and veg. Nothing quite like a frozen lemon or orange wedge in your G’n’T towards the end of the year. A constant process is sorting through the potatoes, onions, and apples to pull out the ones that are turning bad. Its true what they say about one bad apple...

You must deal with extreme temperatures and weather conditions, such as blizzards, strong winds, and ice storms. These can affect your access to storage facilities; make sure you have enough in the main living quarters to last you through any big weather events. Run out of coffee in a blizzard and you will quickly become the least favourite on station.

Then comes the actual part of feeding the expeditioners.

I could write a book on this as it’s an interesting part of the social experiment of putting 24 strangers together for 12 months. Sometimes it’s like having kids and hiding the veg in the bolognaise but you are doing it to use the vegies and ingredients that you have. There are only so many things you can do with frozen Brussel Sprouts, always a good conversation topic though as they receive a lot of undeserved hate (enough cream and garlic they aren’t so bad). I have tried renaming them baby cabbages, but the haters aren’t fooled.

Another tactic includes cutting up the frozen strawberries to match the size of raspberries so they can’t be left in the bottom of the berries bowl, sad and defrosted. Wrapping things in pastry or bacon is always a great way to ensure consumption of almost anything.

It is common to turn your back on a tray of fresh baked goods of which one or more has been removed for taste testing by a stealthy tradie. If you accept this is going to happen, you won’t be upset by the clandestine moves.

The complaints are always the same, "why did you make biscuits today? That means I must eat them". Actually, they don’t, but they will work that out in their monthly medical weigh in. These are also the ones who will never have anything green touch their plate. I just provide, and each must take responsibility for what they put on their plate or in their mouths. Some want help with increasing their culinary skills and some avoid anything kitchen related at all costs. It helps keep station life interesting.

It’s the central hub on station and I love that I get to spend time with everyone on station as they rotate through slushy duty, even if their choice of music for the day is questionable. It is a demanding but very rewarding job.