This month I had the chance to hear Jason C. Anthony read from his sparkling new book, Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Arctic Cuisine. Anthony has taken a land renown for its inhospitable climate (read: nonexistent "growing season") and stitched together tales of meals consumed across generations in this outpost of adventurers, scientists, and eccentrics.
I arrived to the reading under the erroneous impression that hoosh referred to the sound a vac-pac made when opened--which also illuminates my own preconceptions of what one eats in Antarctica. I was soon schooled that hoosh is something far more provocative than bland military rations: it is a staple of early Arctic explorers that consisted of dried meat, fat, and a grain of some kind or crushed biscuit.
While hoosh is not what I would choose to order for brunch, if it was keeping me alive I'd dig in. Very often, it was the only thing that prevented explorers from perishing. Many did. You can be sure those that did not had hoosh to thank in part.
As someone who has spent significant periods of time working in Antarctica, Anthony is able to bridge its history of meals up to present day. There are marvelous passages set in more contemporary times that outline menus, the value of "freshies," and the story of one enterprising man who had pizzas delivered on an airlift from New Zealand. Each pie was worth its weight in gold.
Out of the Arctic isolation comes a renewed appreciation for the variation we so often take for granted at our kitchen tables.