Published September 17th, 2012
Kindly contributed by Jason Anthony, author of Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine, one of the lucky few who has visited the coldest place on Earth, and veteran of eight seasons in the Antarctic. Anthony was working as a U.S. Antarctic Program fuels operator when he was called to remote Vostok Station. The most isolated of the Antarctic research station (the Antarctic Peninsula this is not), no one gets to Vostok, loneliest and coldest of the Antarctic outposts.
“Murmured Russian syllables followed me into the empty dining room. Spare and plain, the room was clearly Vostok’s heart, a repository of Russian culture and simple food so old that it seemed a survivor of ice ages and continental drift. Years of smoke and grease had browned the high pale-yellow ceiling. Much of the paint on the yellow walls had long ago flaked off, and beneath it an older icy blue spread like frost, as if the snow outside the windows had seeped through. Sepia light slanted through the left wall’s dirty windows. Small framed paintings and photos, mostly rural and tropical scenes, gave a tilted hope to the worn room, while a dark polished grandfather clock stood ticking in the far corner. In the dusty light, a mound of boiled eggs glistened in a large bowl like dabs of white paint. Six scuffed dark tables each held slabs of black bread, a brick of yellow butter, and a plate of sliced pink salami. On the sideboard, a massive cutting board and heavy cleaver wore the deep scars of the labor, hunger, anger, and celebrations of men living difficult, cloistered lives.
I’d walked into a Russian still life that seemed to breathe in its dark frame. A transient, I was still bundled up in my parka as I shuffled between the modest invitations on the dining tables. The strangeness of entering another culture in central Antarctica was dreamlike, in that I had walked in from the palpable center of nowhere and found a stained wooden kitchen extracted from the pages of Solzhenitsyn.”
Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine. From the hoosh of early days (a porridge of fat, melted snow and dried meat) to the cafeteria fare at McMurdo, Jason Anthony traces the history of Antarctica through it stomach. With a nod to Roland Huntford, David Walton, Charles Swithinbank, Paul Dalrymple and many other legendary Antarcticans consulted, the book is as well-researched as it is a delight to read. A veteran of eight summers in the Transantarctic and other remote field camps, Anthony understands that cold, isolated men and women dream of food.