One of the unique things about being on an expedition, is that food becomes an entirely simplistic experience. Meals are stripped bare of elegance and presentation. No longer is food served on a pristinely clean white plate. Food is eaten straight out of the package and you know what? Nobody cares. After a day of hiking, I’d eat almost anything if it meant that it was fast and filling.
Meal time in the Arctic was no luxury, but then again it’s the Arctic . . . what was I expecting? Never the less, it took some getting used to. What I used to think were the basics back home became luxuries in the Arctic. Running water was nowhere to be found. Okay that’s a lie, there was running water. We camped near a glacial stream hoping to collect fresh drinking water. Unfortunately, after traveling the length of a mountain the water was full of mud and silt. No worries, nothing like a good boil to kill off any nasties. I still drank the mud.
Although boiling water was by far the hardest part of meal time, it didn’t end there. Finding dinner was also a tricky task. Hiking from beach to glacier, back to beach, then off to the goose hide, and then back to the beach, involves a lot of packing and unpacking. Each trip meant carrying our rucksacks, tent, food, and any other additional equipment. The constant back and forth often resulted in lost or mixed up items. At least three times a day I heard my tent mate shout from within our tent, “Damn. I can’t find my sock.” Only to be followed minutes later by, “Never mind I found it. Aww it smells vile.” So let’s just say trying to find a ration for dinner was no easy task.
Preparing for dinner was always difficult, but who wouldn’t put a little hard work in for a hot meal on a frigid Arctic day. But, hot food or not, 18 days of the same thing is just . . . well . . . difficult. The constant repetition had me fantasizing about food long before I left.
The second I landed back in Longyearbyen I had only two things on my mind. A shower and food. She shower one. A quick jaunt into town and I found myself scarfing down a bag of chips with my mate Ashley. I don’t even like chips, but anything different than flapjacks and ration packs was good with me. Later that night we enjoyed elk burgers to truly cement our Arctic experience. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a meal so fast, or enjoyed it quite so thoroughly.
Right now, I’m sure you’re dying to know what it is I ate in the Arctic that drove me to eat two bags of chips upon my return. Oops, did I just say two. Don’t judge me. Well here it is, a typical day in the Arctic and the food that almost drove me crazy.
- 6:00 a.m. Wake up. Throw on waterproof gear, shove my feet into boots. Leave boots untied and run out of tent. Grab gun. Hope over trip wire. Run to washroom which was either the beach or a poop bag.(If you want to know more about the poop bag, then come to my Talk’s with Travelers talk at Novack’s this Fall).
- 6:30 a.m. Collect snow or water. Crawl back into tent and begin to boil water for breakfast. Meanwhile pour oats into a plastic mug. Add one packet of sugar and one pack of raisins. Enviously stare at tent mates as all they have to do is open up a pre-prepared packet of porridge for breakfast. Pour boiling water into mug. Stir. Devour.
- 8:00 a.m. Eat crackers and jam before hike.
- 9:00 a.m. Begin hiking up Wimandfjellet.
- 10:00 a.m. Admire views. Devour a flapjack. (Hopefully banana, the other flavours aren’t the best).
- 12:00 p.m. Hopefully reach top of mountain or glacier. Have a pack of raisins. Do glacier work or bird counting.
- 1:30 p.m. Eat a pepperami and more crackers for lunch.
- 3:30 p.m. Head back to base camp. Eat more raisins.
- 5:30 p.m. Return to base camp and start boiling water for dinner and for drinking tomorrow.
- 6:30 p.m. Enjoy one of 3 ration packs: Vegetable Casserole, Vegetable Bolognaise, and Lamb Pilaf (my favourite).
- 7:00 p.m. Stare at my dessert. Raspberry jelly and contemplate eating it. Hell no, those things are vile.
I’ve shared some of the hardest moments of meal times, but it all pales in comparison to my dairy debacle. I’d mention it here, but that experience must be shared when I talk about my toilet situation. Uhhh yes . . . it was bad. Until then.