This week at Mawson it’s all about the food, with all your questions are answered by chef Donna, and the word of the week is ingenuity

Antarctic Cuisine – Chef Donna has all the answers

A lot of family and friends have asked me several questions about my day and living at Mawson Station; I will try and answer some of those questions now.

  1. How many people are you cooking for?

As it is winter time there are 15 hungry people that certainly keep me busy.

  1. What time do you start work?

Early, as I like to make fresh bread most days e.g. sourdough, ciabatta, or plain white loaf. I put out hot porridge for those that like a hot healthy breakfast and there are plenty of berries, yoghurt, stewed rhubarb, chia seeds, granola and always plenty of bread for toast or cereal to choose from. I break around lunch time which is when I go to the gym for a run and have a very relaxing sauna. After that it's back at work to cook dinner, finishing around 6pm.

  1. How many meals do you cook a day?

Three meals a day. Smoko 10am (morning tea), lunch 12.30pm, and dinner 6pm.

The biggest and most talked about meal is smoko. So, I always have a soup ready, freshly baked rolls and then it’s something savoury, meaty, cheesy or pastry and you can’t go wrong. For example; bacon & egg roll, hot roast and gravy roll, ham and cheese scrolls, meaty pies, sausage rolls, pizza etc..

Lunch is usually cold cuts of meat, fresh made salads and sandwich fillings. So lunch is a lighter meal and a healthy one as I also make sushi, Vietnamese rolls, and wraps for more variety.

Dinner time there is a choice of two types of protein, vegetables, vegetarian dish, starch (potato, rice or pasta) and gravy.

Dessert there is all you can eat ice-cream. I do make a hot dessert on Roast Nights which is Mondays. We also celebrate people’s birthdays so, if they choose, there will be a birthday cake too.

  1. Do you work weekends?

Short answer is that I have Sunday off and half day on Saturday. Saturday mornings I supply a wonderful cooked brunch with all the trimming, fresh bagels, English muffins, pancakes, smoothies and the usual items baked beans, spaghetti, garlic mushrooms, hash browns, vegetable fritters etc.. Brunch is one of the most favourite meals of the week and a close second is Roast Night followed by Casual Fridays.

  1. How do you keep it interesting?

There is always plenty of suggestion from everyone to keep me busy and I'm always looking for new ideas. We have a social calendar that has theme dinners, social celebration, public holidays and birthdays. So far I have done St Patrick’s Day dinner, pop-up burger bar, cookery class all about bread and we have formal nights when we can dress up and I get to use good cuts of meat e.g. lamb rack, duck, salmon or eye fillet which is a fun night with a lot of laugher.

  1. Do you get tired of cooking?

No. I’m lucky I do love my job. I have always been a chef and I am still learning so many new tricks and different dishes. I have a fantastic team of people to cook for and they eat EVERYTHING which makes my job so much more interesting. Yes, I know exactly all their food habits from breakfast to dinner and the late night munchie. I do try and give them as much healthy variety and comfort food as possible just like home.

  1. Do you have hydroponics?

Yes we do. We are at our early stage for grown lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, herbs, capsicums all planted but now will take time and some TLC (tender loving care). We are getting some lettuces and herbs already but not in great amounts.

  1. Do you get stuck for ideas?

I have brought about three boxes on my own cookery books to get some inspiration if needed. Otherwise Google is your friend for so many ideas, plus AAD subscribe to a food magazine downloaded to iPad. But the biggest ideas I get are from 14 other people that have heaps of ideas and their favourite meals. Friday nights are a casual dinner meal in the bar/lounge and this might be burgers, fish’n’chips, burritos, KFC burger, chicken parmigiana, spaghetti bolognaise, ramen etc.

  1. Is there anything you miss in the way of food?

Would love some grapes, fresh field mushrooms, broccolini, eggplant, snow peas, fresh spinach, avocados and the list will keep growing.

  1. What fresh food do you still have?

The only fresh items are eggs, apples, red and green cabbage, onions, potatoes, oranges, pears, lemons and pumpkin. It’s a little race at the moment when you first come to station and you have all this fresh food you have to process the items before they deteriorate. For example, potatoes get peeled, steamed to ¼ cooked, cooled and then bagged and placed in the freezer. I do this for most fresh food items, citrus is juiced and frozen, and cabbages hold really well so it’s a matter of just taking the outer leaves off if deteriorating.

Well, I hope this has answered some of those food questions that people have been asking.

Chef Donna

This Week at Mawson it’s all about Antarctic Ingenuity

If you have read of Antarctica before you may have heard of a phenomenon called the A-Factor (where A=Antarctic), this is a circumstance whereby everything we do here on the ice is just a little more difficult and takes a little longer to complete (and if something can go wrong it likely will). It may be because of the weather, or it may because the tool or implement we need isn’t available and we can’t just pop out to the hardware store to purchase what might be required. For a myriad of reasons, the A-Factor strikes at any time… and often.

But the Antarctic Expeditioner is a resourceful and inventive species who utilizes their creativity, skills, and dexterity to get the job done no matter the conditions and no matter the equipment available. (But, always safely.) This week, I have many examples of this ingenuity to call upon…

As part of resupply we were supplied 297 ATK (Aviation Turbine Kerosene) fuel drums in preparation for aviation operations next summer, and for many future summers. Unfortunately, the ½ heights they were shipped in cannot be lifted by any of the machinery on station – too heavy. So how to move and store? Our ingenious team has devised a means – move them from ½ heights to ¼ heights to then lift into position, then lift the drums from the ¼ heights onto the stacks. One vehicle with one ‘drum lifter’ to do everything and lots of manual handling. But find a good weather day and the process begins. 12% now done without a fuss, only 8 more days of work to get them all done. (We better get some aviation here next summer.) Ingenious.

The new science labs were built, and the fit-out mostly completed, in previous seasons here at Mawson. In this resupply three new large freezers have arrived on station to be installed into the science labs – however, they don’t fit through the doors. What to do? Wait for a good weather day, take off the side of the building, lift in with the telehandler, and put the side back on the building. And we’re now set for specimen storing next summer when our scientists arrive. Ingenious.

How to celebrate World Meteorological Day in a suitably festive way in a place whether the weather impacts our every activity. Random draw for a lucky station member to be the balloon launcher for the day (Troy our Comms Tech was the lucky winner), then find a lovely Sunday to launch the balloon with station population in attendance (and in onesies to add a little festivity to the occasion). Ingenious.

Entertaining expeditioners on a quiet weekend when we can’t’ get off station? Give a bread making class for 6 very willing students, make lots of lots of bread of many different varieties which can be stored for the days when chef is off station, and make a Saturday dinner of pizzas at the same time. A day’s entertainment, a nightly meal, and future carbohydrates all covered in one small class. Ingenious.

As I think you can probably tell, I am constantly impressed by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people on station, and am proud to be able to work alongside such an impressive group.

Bec Jeffcoat, SL

NOTE: In the “Antarctic Dictionary” – yes there is such a thing – the A-Factor is defined as “the sense you sometimes have in Antarctica that you are being played with, in an amused kind of way, by forces beyond your comprehension or imagination” or as “Murphy’s Law to the power of ten” or “something which often brings catastrophe to the simplest of tasks”.