15 April, 2003 Rothera
So, what is the most important job on base? Well, some would argue that it is the science that we are here for and so the scientists should take the honour. It is however, mainly the scientists that you will hear arguing this position it should be noted. Others, principally the Field assistants, would argue that without field equipment in tip-top condition, then next season quite simply would not happen and thus they are contenders for the award. The more pragmatic amongst us would find it hard to disagree that those who provide the base with power and plumbing, ski-doos to go skiing and a craftsman’s eye for those little (or big) repair jobs are pretty important too. However, as noble as all of these pursuits are, none of us have to work six days a week and deliver on time, twice a day in front of the whole base. Except of course that is for Issy, our lovely chief chef and bottle washer.
With this in mind, the idea of a ‘Can’t cook, Won’t cook’ one Saturday was enthusiastically embraced, safe in the knowledge that even if the food was a disaster, then at least Issy would have a rare Saturday night off. We were split into three teams, each responsible for a different course and with a different selection of ingredients, which seemed to have nothing in common with the course they were destined for. As part of the seven strong ‘Main Course Crew’, I was not alone in being rather daunted at the notion of conjuring up a meal for eighteen with chicken, cheese and brandy being the principle components. Eventually, after much heated debate, we decided on the only true course of action: throw the chicken in the bin, drink the brandy and do cheese on toast.
Action in the kitchen started early on the Saturday morning in question and security was tight as each team tried to maintain the element of surprise. The kitchen was ours from 2pm, and apart from the odd bit of out-manoeuvring by elements of the ‘Pudding Crew’, using the old ‘we need to check in the oven’ gambit, security remained tight. Surprisingly as well, despite the fact that we were a bunch of blokes in a commercial kitchen, the seemingly inevitable disaster was averted and a degree of control over the food was tenuously gained and held onto.
Sixty minutes short of zero hour and the veggies were in and the chicken poised ready for a roasting. The only thing left to do was the sauce. Up until this point we had glossed over the issue by saying that we were going to have ‘some kind of tomatoie-herbie-type-sauce’. However, when it came to actually nailing the specific ingredients, then there was much procrastination and staring at the extractor fans. Finally, Adam took the bull by the horns and set about melting some butter to start the ball rolling. The ensuing tug of war between Adam in one corner, in a kind of Keith Floyd random experimental cooking type mood and me in the other trying to glean as much as I could from Delia to prevent the imminent disaster, was, I am assured amusing to watch. In the end it was a fusion of the two styles that rued the day, but not before Adam’s random butter melting antics set us irrevocably down the path towards five pints of herbie-tomatoie heaven.
When at last we sat down to eat, there were seventeen very tired people and one very happy and dare I say, impressed chef. The banquet of baked trout on a couscous salad, herb stuffed chicken with roast vegetables and a rich Mediterranean tomato sauce rounded off with sticky toffee pudding and cream was a roller-coaster ride for the taste buds and pretty dam tasty too. There is talk of repeating it again, but I think we could all do with a few weeks rest before we attempt such masterpieces again.
And as for who won, well Eric and I are very keen to get Fern Britton down here to judge. So Fern, if you are out there, give BAS a bell and there is a Dash 7 ticket with your name on it just waiting for you.
Jon Bursnall – Field Assistant
With pictures of and thanks to Issy our Chef
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