Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine by Jason C. Anthony Book Review by Jodie O’Kelly
A book about food in Antarctica? Cuisine, even? Jason Anthony’s work is a fun way to learn about the adventures of many explorers and what they had to endure—not just from the extreme weather conditions but also the deprivation of decent meals. Their experiences are more astounding for the lack of food diversity, particularly for those of us whose travels include the excitement of eating in different cultures.
Filled with culinary tidbits, these stories share the creative genius of using various additives (fuel? lemonade mix?) and a variety of cooking methods to break the monotony. But the menus are hardly mouth-watering (and, yes, there are recipes in an appendix, including “Escallops of Penguin Breasts” and “Savory Seal Brains on Toast”). For many years, penguins, seals and whales were the main sources of food calories, along with “hoosh”—a “porridge or stew of pemmican and water, often thickened with crushed biscuit.” Pemmican for Antarctica was often just beef and beef fat in a cube.
If there was enough fuel, food would be cooked. From chewy and delectable, to poisonous, rank or sublime, anything was fair game as far as “food” was concerned; they ate whatever they had. The reader gets glimpses of daily life in extremes one can hardly imagine, especially over long periods of time. Can you imagine trying to work a tiny stove in a blizzard—especially if you are dehydrated and need to melt snow for water?
As the continent attracted various nations for new scientific research, food supplies began to increase in quantity and palatability. Scurvy was effectively treated, and it became apparent morale was dependent on food variety and taste. Even at early US research bases, the food was basic and bland. Early explorers could only dream of the plethora of foodstuffs available today.
Even now, at remote field camps one can rarely get “freshies”—fresh food as opposed to canned, dried or frozen. When working at the Marble Point Refueling Facility for helicopters in 1996, I once had to figure out what to do with a boatload of green onions! You made do with whatever came your way. But the three main research stations are now served by wonderful chefs and nearly all workers who stay for months at a time leave wearing larger sizes of clothing than when they arrived!
Jason Anthony’s Hoosh makes one grateful for anything edible and available, as one should.