A goodbye, a reunion, and a lot of beef.

Well, the big bummer since my last post is that Scott’s three week tour of duty ended this past Saturday, the 16th. It was awesome having him here – especially since Andre wasn’t with him, I got his undivided attention! Fittingly, his last night here was a karaoke night – just like his first night. So we went and had fun. Julie and I sang along, we cheered for everyone, and the night ended way too soon.

Saying goodbye on Saturday morning was particularly sad since the likelihood of our seasons overlapping next year is slim – I probably won’t leave Pole until November and, even then, I may only spend a few hours at the Runway between flights. Fortunately, I had a good project at work to sink my teeth into and keep me busy: Heston’s 20 Hour Beef.

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This is a method of cooking large cuts of meat that I first learned about in culinary school, from one of the other students who later became one of my closest friends. She was preparing a gorgeous rib roast for her husband’s 40th birthday celebration and she would be employing Heston’s 20 Hour Method. Essentially, you “sear” the outside with a kitchen torch – the kind you’d use for bruleeing sugar – and then pop the meat into a 140 degree F oven for 18-20 hours. The rationale is that since the temperature of the meat cannot rise above that of its environment, it will not overcook. The use of the torch ensures that you aren’t significantly heating the meat during the “sear”, so the entire roast should be perfectly the same temperature.

This year, our Culinary Manager had ordered some Cress-Cor heating cabinets for keeping prepared foods hot during our mealtimes and the highest they’d go is about 140 degrees F so I reckoned this would be a perfect time to try out this method. Sadly, the torching was nixed because fuel of any kind here is in low supply but high demand, so we went with the flat top and just crossed our fingers it wouldn’t raise the meat’s internal temp too much.

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Then it was onto racks on sheet pans and into the Cress-Cors until the next day. I have to say, the results were pretty spectacular, particularly for Antarctica!

Then, to provide further distraction from missing Scott, my friend David the C17 pilot made his second flight out to McMurdo today and even though it was in the middle of the workday, I managed to make it out to the Sea Ice Runway for a little reunion! He had actually done a flight on Friday as well but it was a quicker stop than usual as they were going to be continuing on to the South Pole to practice a fuel drop and we were so swamped at work that day there was no chance I could get away. Still, he had managed to send me a bag of oranges that day through the staff at the Runway which was a pretty fun thing to receive! Anyway, today, I had worked it out with the rest of the dinner crew so at 1:45, I jumped on the shuttle out to the Runway which was perfect timing as I got to watch the plane on approach and landing.

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I explained to Jerrod, the shuttle driver, why I was going out and he radioed the shuttles office and confirmed that the crew on this flight had booked a “dirt tour” so he made a special stop to drop me at the shuttle doing the tour, which Brian was driving. Brian drove right up to the plane to pick up the crew doing the tour and when I looked up I could see David through the window.

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The ground crew gets really snarky if you walk around on the runway without permission so I rolled out the window and climbed out so I was sitting on the sill and waved my hands around like an idiot. Eventually, another member of the flight crew volunteered to go in the plane and hurry him up so I could stop making a fool of myself. While we waited for him to join us, I passed around a picture I had brought of us on a soccer team back in elementary school in Indonesia and asked them to pick him out. I think the hot pink shorts were a giveaway. When David got to the van, we hugged and jumped in since they’d only have about 45 minutes before they’d have to be back at the plane for departure prep.

First stop on the dirt tour: the station sign for pictures.

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David also gave me gifts from the US – a box of See’s Candies from my family, some perfume, a bag of apples, and a Cuban cigar. Score! Add that to the package of almond roca from KC Huang Sr that arrived that morning and I was in heaven. In return, I gave David one of our galley hats.

After the station sign, we made an unscheduled stop at my request so they could see the galley – of course, the 24 hour pizza that had just gone into effect in the last week or two was a huge hit with some of the crew grabbing a slice or two and being completely amazed that “it’s free!”. Something the majority of our population takes for granted: at a military base, they would have to pay for that kind of food. From there, we drove up the side of Observation Hill to where the old nuclear plant used to be, and I explained the significance of the cross at the top (please see the Observation Hill post from last summer) Then we drove down to Hut Point where I told them the story of George Vince and Clarence Hare (please see the Discovery Hut post from last summer) and encouraged them to venture a little further onto the point to see all the seals. After that, they really had to head back to the plane, so I said goodbye and walked back to the galley to finish dinner that night: Vietnamese Chicken Pasta. I have somehow become the resident expert on Vietnamese-style food. I wonder how that happened….

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