Anthony’s debut—named after the “meat stew of the ravenous”—traces hardships during Antarctic expeditions and the sometimes disconcerting fare borne of isolation.
From blubber to penguin meat, and on infamous occasions, sled dogs and horses, supplemented by canned foods as well as pemmican (a concentrated mixture of fat and protein, the “perfect endurance food used by Native Americans for millennia”), polar cuisine has always had a storied history. The author discusses a variety of Antarctic-related topics, including problems and shortages during the journeys of Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, Douglas Mawson, Robert Scott and Richard E. Byrd; some of history’s lesser-known expeditions and their cooks; changes brought by researchers and staff during the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958); the U.S. Navy galley at McMurdo; and the exploration efforts of later independent parties. He reveals the resourcefulness and hubris needed to curtail scurvy as well as deprivation in the name of discovery and how initial hurdles gave way to improvements, including cargo transport of fresh goods from New Zealand and better nutritional knowledge. Still, he writes, “Antarctic cuisine has always made prisoners out of residents. The higher someone’s culinary expectations were, the darker the prison they found.” Anthony enlivens historical facts with a knack for choice anecdotes; one man’s minted peas created with toothpaste stand out as much as unexpectedly hotel-worthy midwinter celebrations. In later, thought-provoking chapters, the author considers the environmental toll created by food waste and inefficient management. Anthony concludes with his own experience as support staff.
A singular, engrossing take on a region that until now has been mostly documented from a scientific angle or romanticized by adventurers.