The Food Father, Part I

Written by Chris Polashenksi

So a question we got a lot before leaving, while at summit, and from our friends and , now that we’re out here, is “What are you going to eat?” The long and short of it – everything. And a good lot of it. With cold temps, high altitude, and pit digging (albeit without man-hauling our sleds) we’re definitely burning through the calories – about 4000 a day for me. And that’s only the beginning of our food needs. My esteemed colleagues Mike and Nate seem to have a severe efficiency problem and are consistently putting away twice the volume of food I do, yet they do no more work, and seem to be no warmer than me. We should have checked into their efficiency ratings when Zoe and I hired these guys! Though delicious and cheese, sausage, and bacon-fat filled, the lunchitos just aren’t enough to keep this crew running.

Provisioning for the trip happened in several forms – Mike brought meat from a fall caribou hunt in Arctic Alaska. I brought goose, moose, and venison from both New England and Alaska. Eggs and veggies in the lunchitos came from Norah at Sweetland Farm.

Still a large portion of our dried goods needed to be purchased. Nate drove up to Norwich VT a few weeks before the trip to do this with me. Delayed by a snowstorm in Massachusetts, he rolled in late and met me directly at the super market. A quick hello in aisle 9, and I returned to felling displays of Lipton sides and Velveeta cheesy skillets into the motorcade of carts I’d assembled. Nate took a moment to catch on to the magnitude of the shopping endeavor and was dainty at first, selecting out about 8 or 10 of his favorite candy bars and putting them in the cart. Some quick math about each person wanting perhaps 2 per day, times 3 people, times 45 days got him straightened out and into the spirit. Soon he was putting gaping holes in key sections of the shelving as well.

Chris pitching to three hitters!

Chris pitching to three hitters!

Checkout raised some eyebrows, not the least because it was late on a Thursday night, and the Coop was supposed to close in 25 minutes as we pulled in to checkout lane 3 with our land-train of carts. Luckily there was a cadre of good-spirited folks working the checkout, and no one else checking out, so we occupied all checkout lanes. Everyone was excited enough to hear about the trip we were buying all this awfully fattening food for that we didn’t hear a grumble. We squeaked out just at closing time with a receipt roughly 5 and half feet long and headed to the farm to do some shuffling and repackaging.

Zoe, Norah, and Chris beset in a sea of processed packages

Zoe, Norah, and Chris beset in a sea of processed packages

Preserved food from the store seems to come in an inordinate amount of packaging. 8 shopping carts full of food was going to come with us but in needed to fit in about 1.5 shopping carts worth of space. Plus we wanted to be organized enough to be able to pull out a single bag for breakfast or dinner rather than having to rummage through the pile. A massive explosion of colorful packaging extending in the wee hours of the night and 10 boxes of Ziploc bags later, we had 45 neatly packed dinners and breakfasts. Lunchitos were left for just before departure.

The general theme out here for the menu is:

Hot cereal (cream of wheat, steel cut oats, grits, etc)
Coffee/hot chocolate
Fixins (chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, dried ginger, dried apples etc.)

Chocolate bars
Caribou Jerky sticks (Stick-a-bous!) or Venison Jerky

Starch (noodles, rice, powdered potatoes, stuffing etc)
Flava (Lipton sides packets, onion soup, pasta sauce, velveeta cheese)
Meat (caribou sausage, smoked salmon, tuna, canned mackerel)
Dessert (brownies, coffee cake, bluberry cake, pudding)

The Food Father

The Food Father

It just so happens that our division of labor has broken down in such a way that Mike is doing most of the camp work – and almost all of the cooking. Momma Mike almost stuck. Then Stewing Stewart was tried. Eventually, inspired by our Saturday-night watchin, nay studying, of “The Godfather” on my laptop Mike has been named the Foodfather. From our perspective this has been a wonderful arrangement. Each night, Nate and I come out of the pit to find a dinner that is always delicious, if not executed exactly according to plan. Usually the stick of butter the Foodfather “submarines” in the dinner covers any shortcomings. I’ll let him pick up next time with the Foodfather part II to tell about our food sled, and entertaining tales of culinary excellence on the ice sheet.

8 thoughts on “The Food Father, Part I

  1. I can totally relate! When I hiked the Appalachian trail food became the main focus of every day and there was NEVER enough. Actually, it became a point of disaggreement because my hiking partner was like your partners needed twice as much and did the exact same things I did and we were always fighting over food. Don’t let it get between you!

    We had a real hankering for sardines and anchovies… being the main form of easy to carry protein source back then. (They don’t let you hunt on the AT.)

    Don’t let food come between your friendships, actually, I think it was the main reason we stopped before reaching the end was due to our disagreements on food!

    • Hi Deb,

      The last time I talked to Chris and Mike and Nate (on the sat phone…about some minor transmission problems with the new weather stations), they were all sounding up-beat, if a little tired. The guys have plenty of really good food, and no shortage of it (one of the benefits of being able to hual everything with the snowmachines vs. on one’s very own back). Not that they aren’t missing fresh veggies about now, and perhaps (?) slightly sick of mac&cheese…even with all the documented variations in that essential of all culinary staples. I worked with a group of Norwegian polar researchers who introduced me to the concept of “Viking Comfort,” which is keeping your troops comfortable enough that they won’t revolt against you (I’ll mention that on this particular, Norwegian-led trip in Antarctica we had radiant floor heating, a shower(!), and fresh-made bread…roughing it, not really). Food is one of the first things you have to address to keep the hoards happy, we definitely agree.

      Thanks for the advice! Zoe

  2. being of the bathroom humor type, i wonder (as we all do) what happens to the byproducts of all those caribou steaks and lunchitos. does one do LNT on the ice and pack out?
    we just read this food entry and laughed all the way through. i have started baking and cooking in anticipation of fattening you all up on return. please post food requests so i can shop and prepare. don’t hold back, let your imaginations run wild. my love on a daily basis, mama maggie

    • Hi Simon,

      At least 2/3rd’s of all the dinners are mac&cheese…so about 90-100 good sized portions. Yum! It’s not like there is just one version of mac&cheese, though, as you can have shells&cheese, small shells&cheese, large shells&cheese, penne&cheese, ziti&cheese, farafelle&cheese, manacotti&cheese, rotini&cheese, rigatoni&cheese, and of course, macaroni&cheese. Really, the possibilities are endless, and besides, melting a stick of butter or two in whatever you’re making results in some fine dining regardless of the circumstances (the butter, and the addition of some of the caribou sausage Mike brought along).


      • So I guess to square the number of these refined flavors, the next step will be having as many cheese kind as pasta kind… Chris might answer to that, only French people can have such a twisted mind ;).
        Thanks Zoe for the answer, your adventure seems incredible!!

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