“The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning: A Polar Journey” – Review
At first glance, “The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning” sounds like a guidebook for those interested in heading to the continent. It’s not. Instead, the beautifully bound book is 1/3 history 1/3 cookbook and 1/3 expedition journal.
“ My first moments on the continent of Antarctica felt as if I had reached both the moon and a kind of paradise amidst those baby blue icebergs. It was a place where each footprint felt momentous and each interaction vividly important,” wrote co-author Carol Devine. She created the VIEW foundation to help address and remove human waste left in Antarctica.
While forming her cleanup crew, Carol heard of Wendy Trusler, a Canadian tree camp cook and artist known for her backwoods meals. She soon hired Wendy who would go on to become a good friend and co-author.
From December 1995 to March 1996, five VIEW members were constant in Antarctica, including Wendy. Voluntourists shipped in to Bellinghausen, the Russian former Soviet fishing fuel depot on an island 120 miles off the Antarctic Peninsula, and worked in 4-5 day waves. They came to see the wildlife and the land while helping to clean up 28 years of debris.
In the book you’ll find camp logs from Wendy who spent 3 months at Bellinghausen. The entries range from weather reports, to-do lists, expedition updates and meal remarks. Readers may be surprised at the variety of food Wendy made, from fresh bread and kelp salad to Pisco sours and fajitas. The experienced cook doesn’t often measure with tablespoons or cups, but is so familiar with each meal and individual ingredients that she eyeballs every item. She’s known for making amazing food out of whatever is on hand. That may mean cobbling together several recipes to make use of available ingredients.
Wendy didn’t just cook all day. She visited many of the other nearby bases from other countries like China, where she learned how to make dumplings and Chile where she compared notes on cazuela. She also made it a goal to learn one recipe from each voluntourist come near the end of the three-month stay. Through these talks about ingredients and food preparation, she gains insight into many cultures, people and families. In the book you’ll find recipes for bread, roasted beet salad, white bean and roasted garlic pate and even chocolate chip cookies and frozen chocolate cream, all with gorgeous photos and instructions.
This type of cleaning is not the bleach wipe and mop variety. Instead, voluntourists made the long journey to Antarctica by boat to help pick up 28 years of waste and reduce the human impact on the area. This means everything from huge piles of oil pipes to tiny bits of metal and glass left from industrial uses. Some groups saw major progress in removing larger trash while others took away just a few bags of tiny bits that took days to collect.
“It is evident in the first moments one spends here that the continent bears devastating marks of human activity,” wrote Carol.
The Russians who live at Bellinghausen for many months at a time may burn their garbage but it is discouraged is it creates air pollution. VIEW and it’s volontourists gathered many barrels worth of debris that would be shipped off the island to be disposed of properly.
Gender and cultural dynamics are another huge part of the book. Wendy and her Russian translator Lena are treated as queens by their Russian hosts who constantly rush to drive them places or offer a hand. Interesting situations and friendly relationships develop as Wendy gains the trust of the men on the island and they show her little bits of their home cultures along the way.
The book is a beautiful mix of glacial and food photography, recipes, historical anecdotes and interesting expedition logs. Watch the video above for a brief glimpse into its pages.
Check out the authors here:
On the Web: http://www.theantarcticbookofcookingandcleaning.com/
Twitter: @caroldevine @voicesathand