Hanging By A Frozen Thread

We all know how strongly food can affect mood. Ever been hangry? It’s not a pretty sight. But in an environment where very little else has the power to elevate, the role of food moves from attitude adjuster to a hook on which to hang your sanity.

This NPR story from Daniel Zwerdling takes a pretty fascinating look at the role of meals and cooks on possibly the most remote outpost on earth: McMurdo Station, Antarctica. There, according to one worker, the quality of meals can “make or break morale of the whole station.”

We’ve heard of prisoners rioting over the loss of peanut butter or some such dish, but at least they get a few hours of sunlight a day. In Antarctica, when it’s night, it’s dark for months on end. During that time there is literally no other sustenance than what comes out of the kitchen. From NPR:

Occasionally, diners lose it. Despite all the menu options, the institutionalized feel at McMurdo can often push people’s buttons. Ebel, the maintenance worker, says he went “berserk” once in 1994 because he thought the cooks were always flavoring dishes with curry.

“I cleared that galley once, I cleared the whole serving area,” Ebel recalls. “They were peeking around the corners at me, ‘Mike calm down!’ And all the food and plates got in the way.”

Can’t say as we blame him. Apparently food only comes in by ship once a year. If the only thing we had to eat was curry on frozen and canned stuff we’d probably throw a plate or two as well.

Think about that as you head to the farmer’s market for spring vegetables. They’re sold out of asparagus? It could be so much worse.

Food is Morale Booster or Breaker in Antarctica [NPR]
Photo: Antarctic Sunset #4, Peterkelly [Flickr]

Hanging By A Frozen Thread