‘Hoosh’: Antarctic cuisine

Jan 09, 2013
Jason C. Anthony

Camden — Antarctica, the last place on Earth, is not famous for its cuisine … yet it is famous for stories of heroic expeditions in which hunger was the one spice everyone carried. Jason C. Anthony, a veteran of eight seasons in the United States Antarctic Program and author of “Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine,” will offer a rare workaday look at the importance of food in Antarctic history and culture Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. at Camden Public Library.

At the dawn of Antarctic cuisine, cooks improvised under inconceivable hardships; castaways ate seal blubber and penguin breasts while fantasizing about illustrious feasts; and men seeking the South Pole stretched their rations to the breaking point. Today, Antarctica’s kitchens still wait for provisions at the far end of the planet’s longest supply chain. Scientific research stations serve up cafeteria fare that often offers more sustenance than style.

Anthony’s tour of Antarctic cuisine, presented as part of the library’s Food History month, will take attendees from hoosh (a porridge of meat, fat and melted snow, often thickened with crushed biscuit) and the scurvy-ridden expeditions of Shackleton and Scott through the 20th century to his own preplanned 300 meals (plus snacks) for a two-person camp in the Transantarctic Mountains. The stories in “Hoosh” are linked by the ingenuity, good humor and indifference to gruel that make Anthony’s tale as entertaining as it is enlightening.

Anthony lives and teaches in Bristol. For eight austral summers, between 1994 and 2004, he traveled the Ross Sea region of the Antarctic as a worker in the United States Antarctic Program. Mostly he lived on the coast, in the industrial, bureaucratic community of McMurdo Station, where up to 1200 people make up the largest population on the continent. As the years passed, he spent more time in remote field camps in the hinterlands of the Transantarctic Mountains, West Antarctica and the East Antarctic ice cap. Off the ice, he has since 1994 researched Antarctic history, science, culture and politics.

“Like all deserts, the Antarctic icescape is empty, otherworldly, and often unforgiving. Perhaps more than any other place on Earth, however, the ice continent challenges our perceptions of the physical world and thus of ourselves,” he said.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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