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UAB in Antarctica

As a graduate student, I have grown fairly accustomed to cooking particular styles of cuisine: cheap and easy.  Peanut butter and jelly, cup o’noodles, quesadilla, canned soup, and take-out are all regulars on my meal schedule.

However, these last couple of months I have been eating like a king.  The food in Antarctica is stupendous and meal times are the most sociable times of the day.  Everybody on station comes together to enjoy a feast prepared by Diane and Wendy, the two resident cooks.

These two are amazing.  Not only do they manage to coordinate all meals so that there has been little redundancy throughout my stay, but they also are constantly making snacks or baking cookies so people can have something to munch on during breaks.  This is actually one of the most disturbing parts of Palmer Station.  Ever try to do work while the wafting smell of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies entices you? 

The cooks have Sundays off and everyone fends for themselves with the delicious leftovers from the previous week.  During “winter,” which is what we are officially in now, the staff (cooks included) get one two-day weekend off each month.

Some Sundays or Saturdays on two day weekends other individuals (or science groups) will make a special dinner for Palmer Station.  On a two-day weekend last month our science team made a pasta dinner for the station complete with salad, a choice between three different pasta sauces, and fresh homemade bread.  It was a very successful and tasty dinner which was appreciated by all.

I have zero culinary skills but helped chop vegetables and set tables.  Figuring I could contribute to the science dinner by setting up the dining hall, I tried combining several tables under large table clothes and using candles to give the dining room a more intimate and communal atmosphere.  However, all I could find were large red and white checkerboard table clothes and small red candles. I managed to miss the intimacy theme and nail Pizza Hut (minus the children and small arcade in back).  But still, everyone was impressed by the effort to do something special.

I tired to make up for my shortcomings in feng shui by baking an Easter coffee cake for all to enjoy on Sunday.  It is neat that the cooks, if asked, will let staff members back into the kitchen to cook special dishes or bake for the station.  In fact, usually they are quite grateful to have the help and company while they undergo their daily routine of keeping the station well fed.

Additionally, everyday after dinner a group (usually 4-5) of people will clean all the dishes and the entirety of the kitchen.  This is called Gash and you may be hearing more about Gash in a later journal entry.  At the beginning of each month people sign up for the day of the week they would like to Gash (everybody on station Gashes at least once a week).  On your Gash day, you wait until dinner is over and then conduct a series of chores including labeling and refrigerating all leftovers, washing all the dishes and putting them away, restocking the shelves, and mopping the entire area.

The cooks are usually extremely pleased to wake up in the morning (early) to find a spotless kitchen.  Happy cooks mean happy residents!

Yesterday was a special event for the station.  The research vessel Laurence M. Gould came into Palmer to drop off another science team and the powers-that-be decided to have a “cross-town” BBQ (this means both Palmer Station residents and ship staff were included).  Philip had anticipated this barbeque and brought some Dreamland BBQ sauce with him from Alabama.

We were happy to donate the Alabama barbeque sauce to the event and Diane cooked up some pork ribs for the occasion.  They were delicious, and the cross-town event seemed to be a big hit.  I believe that Dreamland BBQ now has some fans in western Antarctica…too bad they do not deliver.