24 July, 2003
Yesterday I introduced you to the guys that run the Palmer. Today, however, I want you to meet the people that really keep things going, namely, the ship's cooks.
For after all, the Chief Stewards, Ernest Stelly (from Texas) and Mark Stone (Florida), along with Galley hands Jody Keown (New Zealand) and Alejandra Monje (Chile) are the ones providing the fuel that enables us to keep up with our work. As science marches on, these folks prepare great food around the clock. That's right; you can eat 24 hours a day here.
This upon reflection perhaps isn't necessarily a good thing, especially when you're talking about all of their homemade deserts. But, of course, that's not their fault. Among the science group, the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies seem to be everyone's greatest weakness. "Just one more," or "I'll do an extra 15 minutes on the exercise bike," can often be heard each time a new batch comes out of the oven.
Planning three square meals a day for all the people on board as much as five months ahead is not an easy task. For this cruise, the bulk of their food was picked-up in New Zealand, and supplemented with perishables along the way in Hawaii and Dutch Harbor. We still have fresh lettuce at every meal for example.
Ernest, who has been on the Palmer for eleven years, tells me that he tries to prepare at least two entrees for each meal, one meat-based, the other vegetarian. From what I have experienced over the last 3 weeks, I would have guessed that it was more like three or four main dishes. Put another way, there's a lot to choose from at each meal.
The longer that the ship is out to sea, the more challenging it becomes to prepare each meal as the availability of fresh produce and other perishables becomes less. Sometimes the cooks have to go for 60 days before picking-up new provisions. And they always have to be prepared for the unexpected, such as the time when the ship was stuck in the ice for 26 days in Antarctic waters.
I just finished reading a book about the Karluk. That's the name of a ship that got stuck in the ice in these very same waters in 1913-14. The story of survival that resulted emphasized one thing: Food. Entry after journal entry recorded every morsel of food that the survivors could obtain. And they fought over it. Hunger doesn't bring out the best in people.
Needless to say, that isn't the situation here on the Palmer. In fact, the only complaint that I have overheard has simply been "too much!" Here's to Ernest, Mark, Jody, and Ale from one of their biggest fans (and I'm not the only one).
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