Monday, June 17, 2013

Extreme Travel Food.

Tomorrow I set off on a three-week holiday to the country of my birth, Good Old England. It will be a comfortable journey, I am sure, with many fantastic food experiences, not the least of which will be provided at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery.

My travel will be, in every respect imaginable, a far more comfortable journey, with far more tasty, nutritious, and varied food, than that taken by the English-Australian, Douglas Mawson and twenty-nine other men in 1911. The members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition arrived at their destination in December 1911, and returned home in February 1914. It goes without saying that such a venture to such an inhospitable land required careful provisioning. Mawson recorded some details of the food taken along in his later narrative of the two-year expedition, The Home of the Blizzard.

The food-stuffs were selected with at least as much consideration as was given to any of the other requisites. The successful work of an expedition depends on the health of the men who form its members, and good and suitable food reduces to a minimum the danger of scurvy; a scourge which has marred many polar enterprises. Thus our provisioning was arranged with care and as a result of my previous experience in the Antarctic with Sir Ernest Shackleton's Expedition.

A summary which may be of possible use to future expeditions is appended below:

In the matter of canned meats we had some six tons of the excellent Australian article supplied by the Sydney Meat Preserving Company, Ramornie Meat Company (N.S.W.), Baynes Brothers (Brisbane), and the Border (rabbit) Preserving Company of South Australia. For use on the Ship three tons of salt beef and pork served to replenish the ``harness cask,'' largely obtained in Melbourne from Cook and Sons.

For a ton of sauces and pickles we were indebted to Brand and Company (London) and to Mason and Company (London).

Of course fresh meat was consumed as far as possible; a number of live sheep being taken by the `Aurora' on each cruise. Some of these were killed and dressed after reaching 60 degrees south latitude and supplied our two Antarctic Bases with the luxury of fresh mutton about once a week throughout a year.

One ton of preserved suet came from the firms of Hugon (Manchester) and Conrad (Adelaide).

Almost all our bacon and ham, amounting to well over one ton, was of the Pineapple Brand (Sydney), and to the firm which supplied them we are indebted alike for the quality of its goods and for its generosity.

Soups in endless variety, totalling two tons, came chiefly from the Flemington Meat Preserving Company (Melbourne).

Fours tons of canned fish were supplied by C. & E. Morton (London).

Variety in vegetables was considered important. We decided to reduce the amount of dried vegetables in favour of canned vegetables. About six and a half tons of the latter in addition to one ton of canned potatoes were consumed; from Laver Brothers (Melbourne) and Heinz (Pittsburgh). There were one and a half tons of dried vegetables. In addition, large quantities of fresh potatoes and other vegetables were regularly carried by the `Aurora', and many bags of new and old potatoes were landed at the Main Base. In the frozen condition, the former kept satisfactorily, though they were somewhat sodden when thawed. The old potatoes, on the other hand, became black and useless, partly owing to the comparatively high temperature of the ship's hold, and in part to the warmth of the sun during the first few weeks in Adelie Land.

Canned fruits, to the extent of five tons, were supplied by Jones Brothers (Hobart) and Laver Brothers (Melbourne). This stock was eked out by some two and a half tons of dried fruits, chiefly from South Australia.

The management of Hartley (London) presented us with two tons of jam, and James Keiller and Son (London) with one ton of marmalade.

Of the twelve tons of sugar and half a ton of syrup consumed, all were generously donated by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (Sydney).

For milk we were provided with two tons of Glaxo (a dry powder) which was used at the land bases, and a ton and a half of Nestle's condensed variety for use on the ship.

Three tons of cereal meals, largely from Parsons (Sydney), were consumed.

As one might have expected, the amount of flour used was enormous. In the thirteen tons of this commodity from Colman (London) there were three varieties, self-rising, plain, and wheatmeal flour, encased in stout metal linings within strong, well-finished cases of a convenient size. Until required, the cases of flour were used to solidify the break-wind on the southern side of the Hut.

Bird and Company (Birmingham) more than satisfied our needs in the matter of baking powder, custard powder, jelly crystals, and the like.

There was over half a ton of fancy biscuits of excellent quality and great variety, for which we were indebted to Jacob and Company (Dublin), Arnott Brothers (Sydney), and Patria Biscuit Fabriek (Amsterdam). ``Hardtack,'' the name by which a plain wholemeal biscuit of good quality, made by Swallow and Ariell (Melbourne) was known, constituted the greater part of the remaining two and a half tons of ordinary biscuits. ``Hardtack'' was much appreciated as a change from the usual ``staff of life''--soda bread.

For sledging we had secured one ton of biscuits specially prepared by the Plasmon Company (London) containing 30 per cent. of plasmon. These, together with one ton of pemmican and half a ton of emergency ration prepared by the Bovril Company (London), are specially referred to in the chapter on sledging equipment.

Butter was an important item; the large stock of two and a half tons coming from the Colac Dairying Company (Melbourne). The butter was taken fresh in fifty-six lb. blocks, packed in the usual export cases. On the `Aurora' it was carried as deck-cargo, and at the Main Base was stacked in the open air on the southern side of the Hut. At the end of the second year (1913) it was still quite good; a fact which speaks well for the climate as a refrigerator. Of Australian cheese we used half a ton, and this was supplied in forty-pound blocks.

The firm of Messrs. Cadbury, well known for their cocoa and eating chocolate, supplied us with these commodities, and receive our unqualified praise for the standard of the articles and the way in which they were packed. The total consumption was one ton of cocoa and half a ton of chocolate.

The three-quarters of a ton of tea was donated by “Te Sol”' (Guernsey) and Griffiths Brothers (Melbourne). In both cases the articles were well packed and much appreciated. Half a ton of coffee was used, partly supplied from London and partly donated by Griffiths Brothers.

Rose's (London) lime juice, as an antiscorbutic, was mainly reserved for consumption on the Ship. This lime juice was much in favour as a beverage.

Other supplies, taken in bulk, and for which we are indebted to the manufacturers, are: one ton of Cerebos Salt, half a ton of Castle salt, one ton of Sunlight Soap, our complete requirements in toilet soap from Pears, candles from Price, matches from Bryant and May including special sledging vestas, and dried milk from the Trufood Company.

Sweets, which were used for dessert and on special occasions, were presented by the firms of Fuller and Batger of London, and by Farrah of Harrogate, &c. There were also small quantities of aerated waters, ales, wines, and whisky for each Base.** At the Main Base, at least, there was no demand for whisky until penguin omelettes became fashionable.

** Donated by Schweppes, Kopke, Burgoyne, and others.

The smokers were well provided for by a generous donation of Capstan tobaccos, cigarettes and cigars from the British American Tobacco Company in London. At a later date, when our Macquarie Island party was formed, the Sydney branch of the same firm met our added needs with the same generosity.

There are many other items which have not yet found a place in this summary which cannot be acknowledged severally, but for which we are none the less grateful. Mention is made of the following: Horlick's Malted Milk, Neave's Health Diet, Brown and Polson's Cornflour, International Plasmon Company's Plasmon chocolate and Plasmon powder, Bovril and lime juice nodules manufactured by Bovril Limited, Colman's Mustard and Groats, Flemington Meat Company's desiccated soups, Seager's meats, Nestle's nut-milk chocolate, Escoffier's soups, &c.

The cooking range which served us well for two years in the Hut at Adelie Land was from J. Smith and Wellstood (London); others were presented by Metters (Adelaide).

The total supply of foods purchased and donated aggregated quite one hundred tons, exclusive of packing. Much of this was assembled in London. In Australia the Government Produce Department of Adelaide rendered valuable assistance.

As the recipe for the day, in honour of all intrepid explorers of frozen places, I give you a rather interesting and very minimalist recipe for Snow Cake, from Dr. John Kellogg, of cornflakes fame.

Snow Cake.
Take one part of corn meal and two parts dry snow, if the snow is moist, use less. Mix well in a cold room. Bake in gem pans, filling the pans round full. Place quickly in a very hot oven. If the cakes are raw, or too dry, more snow was required. If they are heavy, too much snow was used.

The Hygienic Cook Book (1876) by John Kellogg.


Anonymous said...

What a great post. I recently read a book about Antarctic cuisine, Hoosh, a great read so long as you don't mind knowing that some famous expeditions actually planned to eat the dogs! Nice to see the Australians had plenty of other supplies.
Have a great ice in Oxford, I hope to come to a conference soon.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of other supplies indeed! I wonder if a factor in their donation was something like this being published, mentioning every company by name. It looked like an unusually large amount of sugar (10 tons!) until I realized how many calories they probably needed each day to keep warm.

Anonymous said...

Is there anywhere that you are particularly looking forward to eating at?