My first full day…

I think I finally crashed around 2300 last night and as tired as I was, found myself waking up multiple times throughout the night in a dead panic that I had overslept. I chalked this up to the fact that while our window is covered with plywood, there is a small gap at the top where light gets through and it’s just enough to simulate late morning sunlight in the Bay Area. In between those moments of wakefulness, I slept very very heavily (read: drooled a lot). I finally got up for good at about 0730. Unfortunately, the hot breakfast was already cleared away by then (0530-0700) but there’s always cereal and toast so I had some of that (mmm powdered milk) and a cup of coffee and then sat down in the computer room that runs along “The Highway” which is the main corridor of 155 – the Store is there, as are the offices for Housing and Recreation and the two ATMs. Somehow during that time, I missed the guided tour of Town that was led from the giant handwashing sinks that are just inside the main entrance to 155, so I signed off the computer and made up my own little tour using the map of the station we were given at Orientation. My tour conveniently swung by IT services, so I could drop off my laptop to get screened, which is necessary if I want to connect to the station network via the LAN cables that are all over, including the coffee house and the oh-so-convenient library but alas, not in our rooms. My tour was also successful in helping me find the climbing wall! It’s nothing compared to PG but at least I won’t lose all my climbing technique while I’m here!

Because I was scheduled to work that evening, I made sure to get home around 1300 for a nap, although I wasn’t sure how much more sleeping I could do. Turns out I didn’t need to worry – I slept through to 1800, when I got up and changed and went to the gerbil gym for a workout. I thought a quick run before work would do nicely since it is WAY too cold to run outside – the temps might have been in the low to mid teens (-12 to -16) but the wind chill dropped them substantially. Unfortunately, 1800 is peak time and the tiny room was PACKED. All five treadmills were taken, so I settled for 30 minutes on the stationary bike. Then I rewrapped myself back in outer layers and grabbed a quick dinner before coming back to my room, showering, and going BACK to the galley for work.

My first night of work was more orientation, essentially. I toured the walk-ins, the freezer (no, we don’t just stick stuff outside), the dry storage areas, learned where the cleaning supplies were, etc. The kitchen is easily larger than the Schwab Center’s but has only one prep sink and one handwashing sink. The emphasis on water conservation here had already been obvious up until now – Jonathan, one of the seasoned USAP people from my flight, had told me that it costs about $15 to make a gallon of water at McMurdo, and even more at the Pole – but I was curious to see how working in a kitchen with only two sinks was going to be.

Freezer

Matt took me through the menu for the night – it seems that the menu set by management is mostly just a “suggestion” for us and Matt fills in the details with what we have on hand, what needs to be used, etc. Contractually, we are obligated to always have one protein-based entrée, one vegetarian entrée, one starch, one vegetable, and salad. There must also always be two soups out at all times, along with cereal and bread for toast. Lunch that night would be “tacos” – but since we didn’t have taco shells or a fryer basket to make shaped-shells, we would just be making nacho chips. We had some ground beef and PVT (the weird, vegetarian mystery protein) already cooked, I was to cook off some chicken as well. We had black beans made already and Matt would make some Mexican rice. I started tripping and slicing the chicken and was promptly told not to waste my time. Hmm, this was going to take some getting used to. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure Matt would have preferred I not take time to marinate it either but we were well ahead with prep and, well…he had said this was the shift where we could take more care with what we put out.

For dinner, he put me in the lead – I made a marinara primavera, with canned marinara of course, although I couldn’t help sautéing off some garlic and onion before heating the sauce through and then adding some herbs. I sautéed off the different fresh veggies I had scrounged from the tail end of our “freshies” – the fresh vegetable delivery we get every two weeks or so. Then I cleaned and portioned cod to be baked, took tails off shrimp to be baked, portioned out the “lobster butter” I had been instructed to use – it’s in quotes because it didn’t taste like it was made of lobster but more like it should go with lobster – and prepared a beurre monté with lemon juice and herbs for the linguine Matt had cooked off in one of the steam kettles earlier. Once it was all cooked, I tiled the cod in three hotel pans, scattered the shrimp over, and put circles of butter on top of each portion and wrapped it and put it in the warming cabinet. I tossed all the pasta with the herb butter (sensing a theme? I did say the food was heavy) and that went into two hotels and into the warming cabinet. Ditto with the marinara sauce. At the last, I steamed off some snow peas and that was the veg. Salad was simply a matter of throwing some greens in a half hotel and setting out some dressing. Dinner, done. At 5:15 in the morning.

In the meantime, Matt and our third team member, Alex, had put together 5 hotel pans of scrambled eggs from a carton and cooked them in the combi, 6 hotel pans of baked sausages, 7 hotel pans of Johnny cakes (I saw them and wistfully recalled the ones I’d had at the Stoumen cabin at Donner Lake), 4 hotel pans of hash browns, and 1 “pencil” pan each (like a half hotel but lengthwise instead of widthwise, and very deep so it holds the equivalent of a full hotel pan) of polenta and oatmeal. This was hot breakfast. Additionally, we set up a cold buffet with yogurt, canned fruits, jell-o, salsa, and cheese. Then it was back into the kitchen to clean down for 30-45 minutes until 6am.

I grabbed some food on my way out and was immediately wistful again, this time for the fresh eggs Tiffany had fed me my last morning (well, my intended last morning) in California. The sausage wasn’t bad though. Then I stumbled home and collapsed because, wouldn’t you know it, I had a mandatory safety orientation scheduled at 10am! We were supposed to have gotten it in Christchurch but because of the delay…

At any rate, both my roommate and Matt had thought I should be allowed to skip it or at least reschedule it because I work nights but when we took it to the Exec Chef, he had said there was nothing he could do but he gave me permission to come in to work two hours late to make up for lost sleep. So off I went to grab a quick nap before the meeting and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep more quickly.

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