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15 November, 2003

While here at Big Razorback I have been doing an extensive scientific study of my own. I have been observing and evaluating the foraging behavior of seal researchers. It has been an interesting and tasty study in which to parcticipate. My findings have led me to support changing the name of our camp from Big Razorback to Big Grazerback, in recognition of the eating style that has developed over the past few weeks.

It all began with our trip to the Food Room many weeks ago. We picked up a tasty assortment of canned, dried, and frozen foods on which to base our daily menu. Unlike the Galley (McMurdo's cafeteria) we do not plan the week's menus in advance. Instead, we rely on individual creativity and hunger-fueled inspiration to come up with each night's meals. Often, the hungriest person is the one who volunteers to cook dinner, so that full satisfaction is guaranteed.

Well, what do we eat out here at Big Grazerback? Breakfasts are a simple grazing affair, with each eating according to their own individual tastes. Most mornings we eat cold cereal with freshly reconstituted powdered milk. There are some choices in cereal-granola, raisin bran, shredded wheat, and tasteeos (better dubbed tastelessos, from their blandness). We also have some hot cereal around-7 Grain, instant oatmeal, and instant grits. Some of us are more partial to toast, nicely browned using our stovetop toaster that fits over the burner of the propane cookstove. But what kind of toast? Well, there are English muffins or bagels and the occasional loaf of fresh bread from McMurdo's Galley crew. And what to put on the toast? So many choices-butter or peanut butter, honey or jam (2 flavors)-how to decide? The camp is split on the hot beverage question; there are four coffee drinkers, one tea drinker, and one who rarely drinks hot beverages.

While we're happily grazing away on our breakfasts we are also getting the lunchbags ready. Each group carries a daypack loaded with a perfect picnic for the ice. Our picnic supplies include a large thermos of hot water and 2 insulated cups. There's an assortment of instant soups and hot beverages, as well as the essential bag of chocolate bars and granola bars. We also try to add a few sticks of beef jerky to satisfy the carnivores of the group, but have found they make better soup-stirrers than luncheon edibles. Most of us also carry our personal stash of chocolate because you never know when you might need some quick energy or just an attitude adjustment. We also carry along cheese or salami to supplement the hot soup. Lunch is a casual affair-it's whenever you have time and wherever you might be. One thing's for sure-our cafeteria has some of the best views in the world!

The grazing begins in earnest when we all return to camp. While various menu ideas are floated about, someone usually manages to find something on which to graze-Pringles, crackers, leftovers, or any other edible item that rise to the surface. Should we fry, bake, or grill? What spices should we use? How about cooking up just a few of the 25 boxes of Pasta-Roni that we somehow brought out here? The perennial favorites so far have been macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas, bean burritos and quesadillas (with their myriad variations), stir-fry vegetables with tofu, rice and spicy peanut sauce, and anything that gets cooked on the grill. When it comes to desserts it's easy as long as there's some Oreos around. I continue to be amazed at the group's capacity for Oreo consumption. Whoever decided that a serving size was only 3 Oreos grossly underestimated the Oreo-eating capabilities of this group of researchers! Sometimes for variety we'll whip up a little basked treat, like brownies or gingerbread, or mix up one of those instant cheesecakes, since it's easy to chill the filling outside.

Looking over our groaning larder, I can't help but think of Robert Falcon Scott and his men during their attempt to reach the South Pole. Their daily ration for the polar trek was carefully calculated to provide optimum amounts of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins, although they were not exactly sure what the absolute quantities of each would be. The ration of 34.43 ounces each day per person included 16 ounces of biscuits, 12 ounces of pemmican, 2 ounces of butter, 0.57 ounces of cocoa, 3 ounces of sugar, and 0.86 ounces of tea. This was calculated to provide 4889 calories. According to Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a member of Scott's crew who was not a part of the final bid for the Pole, this was not enough calories to compensate for days spent man-hauling sleds across the snowy surface and nights spent shivering in frost-soaked sleeping bags at cold temperatures. It was certainly not enough calories to provide them with any sort of caloric 'safety net' that would have helped them survive their final tent-bound days waiting out a storm.

Conditions have certainly changed since Scott's expedition, at least for camp-based researchers such as ours. Our lives are much easier and our food choices incredibly varied in comparison. We sleep in heated huts with a well-stocked pantry and travel across the ice by burning fossil fuel instead of our own calories. I'm still not sure if our daily calorie consumption would carry us to the Pole under our own power, but I am sure that our diet is incredibly varied and quite amazing when you take a moment to just look out and see where we are.

HmmmmŠI wonder what we'll eat for dinner tonight?

Daily Haiku:

Cereal breakfast

Soup and chocolate for lunch

What is for dinner?

These are the choices for your daily candy ration. The food room allows us 2 chocolate bars per day.

The beefsticks are best used to stir your soup.

Bread browning nicely on our stovetop toaster.

We store our frozen food outside in these coolers. It's sort of like the world's largest walk-in freezer.

We have quite an assortment of dried foods from which to choose, but I think we're a bit overloaded when it comes to Pasta-Roni.

Don't forget the Oreos for dessert!

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