Roll on, Saturday night! This was going to be my first night running the Midrats show, as it was Matt’s first night off in about a month. I was a little anxious so I showed up early to make sure things were squared away and sure enough, Matt had made sure we were well set up. Lunch would be Chicken Enchiladas, Vegetable Enchiladas, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice, and Broccoli. We were also putting out leftover roasted Cornish game hens just in case. Now, my chicken enchiladas are kind of legendary but given the emphasis on keeping things simple, I knew Matt would take a dim view of my “wasting” too much time doctoring the sauce. This is the open-the-can-and-stir-it-in school of cooking! Still, I did my best, adding some chipotle chilis and sauce and some lime juice. They don’t season with acid much here which is a shame – not only would the Vitamin C be a welcome addition to the diet but it really brightens food up, particularly canned stuff! The refried beans turned out to be quite a surprise…I was instructed to use the bags of Instant Refried Beans that had just come in. Please imagine my lip curling in a sneer of “ewwwwwwwww”. However, they were actually surprisingly good, particularly with the addition of lime and cilantro! The rice…was a bit of a disaster. I’ve done steamed rice in the steam oven before at Schwab and it comes out really nicely but Matt told me to use the convection ovens because that’s what he does. As it’s becoming fairly clear to me that he’d rather I do things his way, I did my best but it got a bit overcooked. Ah well, it still tasted fine.
It was during this time that Todd, the Culinary Manager who had been filling in as Exec Chef as well, came by. Matt had told me he’d be in – you see, tonight was the Halloween Party, the most legendary of parties at McMurdo. There was some concern that around midnight, there would be an influx of drunken, costumed fools looking for food. Technically, only people with Midrats cards are allowed to eat the food we put out so Todd was here to check people’s cards. He also instructed us to fry off some tater tots and put those out just in case any drunk people managed to escape his scrutiny. Personally, I also think he was here to give Alex and me a hand just in case we needed it. Also it turned out, there was some paperwork that had slipped through the cracks that I needed to catch up on so he asked if he could take ten minutes of my time to go over it with me. Well, ten minutes turned into thirty so by the time I got back to the kitchen, it was a scramble to get everything out but we did it. But just as Todd and I were wrapping up the paperwork and I was heading back to start putting food out, I happened to spot the lanyard he was wearing around his neck – it looked like it had the word “embassy” on it so I asked him what it said. He says, “Oh, U.S. Embassy Moscow. I lived there for five years.” Well shut my mouth and paint me red! If it isn’t a small, small planet! Apparently we missed each other by a year – he moved there in 2002 and I had left for college in 2001 but his wife, Suzanne Thompson, was an attaché there for years and years before he got there and I told him it’s incredibly likely that although I don’t remember her, she probably knew my father since people don’t usually forget him. If any of the former MSGs are reading this and remember her, let me know, will you? So that was kind of a cool connection to make.
After dinner, I got to work putting together lunch and Alex busiest herself with the flight lunches and field lunches that get put together every day – they’re basically bagged lunches of sandwiches, burritos, wraps, chips, cookies, fruit, etc that are sent out to the daily field camps we have nearby (the fields that are really far away have their own cooks), as well as on flights to the Pole, Christchurch, etc. There’s really a lot that goes into keeping the USAP running and the operations of this kitchen are quite impressive.
Dinner had largely been prepared for us – we had a couple trays of white rice that had been leftover from another meal, as well as two trays of sliced pork loin. As I passed the dry storage, my eye caught the can of black bean sauce – voila, another staple menu to which my regular clients would be accustomed! Dinner would be pork with black bean sauce, eggplant with black bean sauce, fried rice, and steamed snow peas. There were some veggie spring rolls in the freezer we could have fried off but we already had more than enough food so we opted not to do so.
Breakfast for Sunday morning was easier than usual since there are fewer offerings as the AM cooks do a big brunch at 10:30 – we only had to make sure there were a couple trays of bacon and 3 trays of scrambled eggs. Easy money, as they say in the kitchen.
So that was my first night running the joint – it wasn’t spectacular but all the food was out and on time and tasted good. When I sat down to eat at midnight, I even sampled the enchiladas and while they definitely weren’t as good as mine, they weren’t bad.
When I got home after my shift, however, I went to sleep almost immediately, and only woke up around 1330. Because Sunday is the day off for most people (everyone works 6 day weeks), it was pretty quiet around station so I caught up on reading, went for a little walk – the weather has been GORGEOUS – and caught up on posting. I have to say, I think I might like this schedule better. I’m so tired when I get off work that the hours I’m awake afterwards are foggy at best. Sleeping immediately post work and then getting up and doing stuff before I start might be the better option since I definitely am then more awake and alert during that time. We’ll see how work goes tonight though…