08 January 2016

The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning

For 28 years all manner of junk had washed up in Antarctica, so a small band of Canadians and Russians decide to give up their summer and clean it up. How hard can that be?  A parka, some trash bags, a Starbucks gift card...

Turns out, you need a bit more than that.

Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine lay out exactly how much more one might need for such and undertaking in The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning.  Rather than just gather up a bunch of recipes which might have been quite entertaining, the pair embraced the the truly unique adventure and treated it as such.

Carol Devine was always fascinated with Antarctica. So much so that she helped found VIEW Foundation for Volunteer International Environmental Work.  The Russian Antarctic Expedition (RAE) offered to host a VIEW clean-up crew with the following caveat -- BYOC --Bring Your Own Cook. Carol called Wendy Trusler, whose resume included her work as a visual artist as well as  her experience catering in out of the way locations. It was a match made in heaven, if heaven was 40 below and covered in ice.

The pair brought modern ideas to their book but they couched it in the long admired tradition of the adventure narrative. The very beginning of the book juxtaposes Ernest Shackleton's  1914 ad for Men Wanted.  He offered a hazardous journey, low wages, bitter cold, months of darkness, a good chance of never returning, BUT some recognition if one were to return.

By 1995, VIEW offered a 12 day trip to clean up a research station, some sightseeing, putting debris in bags, lectures and cocktails. What a difference a few decades make!

While the actual details of the adventure were noticeably different, The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning retains the feel and style of adventurous travel writings from the late nineteenth century. In addition to really nifty recipes, there are photos, both vintage and modern, diaries, maps, observations, and a drink or two.  One thing the VIEW gang had to deal with that Shackleton never thought of was feeding vegetarians. Trusler noted:
"Vladimir the Russian cook made his borscht using a meat stock. My version kept the vegetarian volunteers in camp happy and even got the thumbs up from the Russians. To make vegan Rosemary Maple Borscht just substitute olive oil for butter and hold back on the dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream."
Rosemary Maple Borscht

2 pounds beets (around 5 medium) // 3 medium potatoes // 2 tablespoons butter // olive oil // 2 onions // 2 cloves of garlic // 1 celery stalk // 2 large carrots // 1 small cabbage(about 5 cups chopped) // 1 tablespoon caraway seeds // 8 cups water // 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar // 3 tablespoons maple syrup // 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces) // 1 tablespoons sea salt // pepper // fresh rosemary

Peel and cube the beets and potatoes and put them aside. Heat the butter in a large pot set over medium heat and add the beets and potatoes, tossing to coat them with butter. Reduce the heat and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and being careful not to bruise or break the cubes. After about 5 minutes add enough water to cover the vegetables and gently simmer until tender, around 10 minutes.

While the beets and potatoes are cooking, mince the garlic and onions and chop the remaining vegetables. Put the caraway seeds into a large Dutch oven or stock pot and toast them over low heat, pushing them around the pan from time to tie so they don’t burn. When you begin to smell the aroma of the caraway add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pot. Stir in the onions, garlic and celery, sprinkle with salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Next mix in the carrots and cabbage and sauté for about 5 minutes before adding the remaining water. Bring briefly to a boil and reduce the heat before making the final additions.

Add the beets and potatoes in their cooking liquid, along with the vinegar, maple syrup, crushed tomatoes and a large sprig of fresh rosemary. Cover and simmer for at least 40 minutes to bring the flavors together. Season to taste and make adjustments to the thickness of the soup by adding water as you see fit. Garnish with rosemary and a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and sere with freshly baked bread.

Makes enough for ten to twelve people.

Cooking for small teams of volunteers on King George Island meant I had to scale back my recipes from my bush cook days, but only so far. I love that I can get a few meals from this soup. It keeps for five days and freezes well even if you aren’t in Antarctica.

The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning is a wonderful mix of art, science and food. Now you, too, can cook like an adventurer, but without the ice and garbage!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lucinda!
    I've been trying to get here for days, lol...I'm finally back to blogging on a more regular basis. It feels good!!!

    This book is so intriguing in oh so many ways. Needless to say, I've never heard of it before but it sounds like an adventure I must go on!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Lucinda...Happy New Year to You and Yours!!!


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