Antarctica's head chef plans almost 1 million meals in advance

Originally published at:


Keeping everyone in Antarctica fed

To think McMurdo station houses everyone in Antarctica is a very subtle but still substantial form of American exceptionalism. There are dozens and dozens of research stations in Antarctica built by all kinds of countries, from Poland to India, from the Netherlands to Japan.


I was head baker for the 2005-2006 season. It was interesting to see how long you can keep stuff frozen. Our recipe for granola started with a 50# bag of rolled oats. When I was there we made cookies from scratch (they started bringing in tray and bake cookies a few years ago) and we baked about 3000 cookies when we did, which was twice a week. Food becomes very important when there are few other things to look forward too every day. One year a few congresspersons came down on a junket, and while they were there the soft serve ice cream machine broke and one of their staffers attacked the the dining room attendant who put up the out of order sign. When I was at the Pole one of the beakers accused the galley crew of hoarding the fresh fruit-it had been a few weeks without freshies becaus of bad weather. Pro-tip; if a fresh banana is a necessity in your daily diet, don’t go to the South Pole for a six month stay.


NARRATION: Antarctica is a place where basically no food grows

ME: Apart from penguins

[CUT TO: penguins]


So there’s someone who literally sells freezers to Antarctica.

Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers…


Until relatively recently it was standard practice for research station staff to shoot seals to feed to sled dogs.

I think this continued until the early 90s, when the last sled dogs left Antarctica because of a new international treaty that banned them. AFAIK British research stations still refer to stocks of food as “manfood”, as opposed to dogfood…


One game we played at the Pole was the read the expiry date on the bag of Nutter Butters that the grad students brought to the South Pole Telescope every day. The oldest was 7 years past its use-by date. They tasted grocery-store fresh.

The freezer at the Pole is the outside.


It’s scary how many isolation experiments and space missions failed/might fail for this reason. During lockdowns, the desire for greater variety in meals leads some people to put themselves at risk, too. I hope people can become more adaptable, though.

Reading about people who grew up eating the same thing every day for dinner led me to try it as an experiment a few years ago. It worked better than expected. Still, I was surprised when my brother reacted with disbelief when I mentioned usually eating the same thing for breakfast every day. If you like something, why not? I’d been doing that far longer than my dinner experiment, and hadn’t really thought about it.

Having to plan for a variety of meals without repeating anything for weeks can be more stressful than eating similar things every week. Maybe the preference for predictability explains why Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays are popular. Changing snacks (fruit, veggies, etc.) or treats seems easier to manage than a constantly changing menu of meals. I guess it’s a matter of finding the point where predictability ends and boredom/irritation begins.


I think food can go both ways. My cooking tends to be very routine, because I find it a helpful coping tool for anxiety. Having a set of things that I always like to eat and know I can cook well is comforting for me. I’ve never craved much variety in meals.


Nice! And if Cpt Queeg was a version of Nixon, is there a literary version of 45? Aside from A Face in the Crowd…

1 Like

TIL there’s a lot more people at the poles than TV usually shows. I’m surprised!


It’s interesting to realize how much the need for variety is driven by other things. When I was a kid, we cooked most of what we ate. Eating at a restaurant was for special occasions. Since I rarely had it, I didn’t miss it.

As I worked and earned more, restaurant meals became part of networking and socializing a few times per month. That’s because I’ve worked from home. It would’ve been more often if I was still in my old office where people went out for lunch every day. So, I might crave something different to eat every couple of weeks. That usually means a meal I’d never attempt to make myself, but can order as takeout.


The Caine Mutiny was published in early 1951, before Nixon was even VP. At the time he was just some lawyer turned politician from California.

Maybe in a Sinclair Lewis novel, but Elmer Gantry and Buzz Windrip both seem far too human. If there was an equivalent, the publishers would reject it because Trump lacks the dimensionality of even a one dimensional character. He’s a zero dimensional character. A point source of suckage.

You may be able to find something in exceptionally poorly written dystopian sci fi, but who knows.


On a related note, when they mentioned bearded researchers isolated in remote tents, my gaydar array instantly locked in on a specific and highly detailed line of speculation.

1 Like

I’m frankly surprised that ice cream is all that popular on Antarctica.

1 Like

Nixon WAS a naval officer… Perhaps Buddy Ackerman from Swimming With Sharks?

I feel rather certain that if that is your bag, you can find stories on the internet that explore that niche.

1 Like

ISTR reading an article in the paper once about cooking on a submarine, where the constraints are similar, although they don’t have as much freezer space.


Actually not as much as you might think! I did check AO3 and

The literary figure that always strikes me as closest to 45 is Fyodor Karamazov, if only his family had any redeeming features at all.