250 wanderers hanging out at the end of the earth – yet they will not do without turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving. Some things are non-negotiable.
The South Pole galley staff all worked on Thanksgiving weekend while the rest of the crew enjoyed two
entire days off – contracts specify only one day off per week normally – but the culinary labors were much appreciated.
We made the usual traditional foods, and Exec Chef James gave out assignments. Mine was two kinds of stuffing, turkey-infused and vegetarian – for the “hounds” as we call them, since they waste ne’er a minute lining up for meals to refill their constantly emptying caloric coffers.
Fortunately we have this gizmo called a Tilt-Skillet, a foot-deep electric fry pan that measures about 3-4’ square and can handle a LOT of stuffing. Why “tilt”? Because when you are done moving the food around with a 5-foot paddle, you can turn on a little switch and the entire thing tilts forward for emptying and cleaning. You practically have to crawl inside to clean the thing, but in a situation such as this, it is an invaluable tool.
Thanksgiving is Exec Chef James’ baby – he is often planning and supporting but leaves the rest of us to our own devices in the day-to-day cooking. Holiday time, though, he is hands-on. He smoked 8 turkeys on the back deck in 50 below weather, then deep fried another 8. The rest were served roasted au naturel. Will, the dinner sous-chef, was entrusted with several vats of real
mashed potatoes – the first real potatoes anyone had seen around here in months – as well as buckets of roasted root veggies.
Appetizers were served in the hallway—smoked salmon, tapenade, baked brie en croute--and this was one opportunity for everyone to get out of their Carhart padded overalls and into something fancy…at the very least clean jeans and a t-shirt with clean hair. Not such an easy thing when you are allowed only two showers a week due to water rations.
The dining room, which is usually flooded with round-the-clock sunlight, was window-darkened and strung with blue sparkly light strings. Volunteers moved tables end-to end and wine bottles served as candle-holders. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days of the year that candles are allowed due to high risk of fires – something that would be a serious disaster out here in the middle of nowhere at the very end of the planet.
Other volunteers served as wine-stewards and waitstaff for the three different seatings, and still others had come together a couple of days before for a potato-peeling and pie-baking party. Dessert, on view here, consisted of pumpkin, pecan and apple pies, all with perfectly rustic brown crusts.
Christmas quickly approaches and it will be another food marathon in the same vein – this time we serve Beef
Wellington. After dinner, just as with Thanksgiving, a pretty wild dance party will emerge—these are not conventional folks--one which will carry on until about 6am when everyone heads back to their rooms for a nap before brunch and the to-order omelette bar – a mid-morning Sunday tradition on the one day about 90% of the crew have free.
(OTHER PHOTO EXPLANATIONS: Dan the Materials Purveyor bringing in food
from the boonies; The sublime greenness of the cosmic drink we serve
here called Lime Raro; Sophisticated outdoor food storage methods; The
galley crew at the Pole,; )