What does Antarctica taste like? Well, literally it is cold and icy, and tastes best in the midst of a good single malt. For those of us who spend our lives in lower latitudes, there is still a way to enjoy a taste of the South without investing in schemes to tow icebergs up into the Sydney Harbour first. Instead, we can turn to the rations boxes of early explorers and flick through their recipes from the comfort of our own homes. Penguin and seal may be off the menu these days, but it is still possible to give your tastebuds a southern sensation akin to that enjoyed by Scott and Shackleton some 100 years ago.
These days those who work at Antarctic research stations enjoy the same diet as those of us back home, bar the ‘freshies’ such as fruit and milk, which come in frozen or powdered forms respectively. Heading to the supermarket for Cadbury’s chocolate and Mainland Cheese is no fun, though. Tasting the sepia flavours of the past is much more of a challenge. Or is it?
While polar explorers and raw-food fanatics may seem to have little in common other than an aversion to scurvy, there is in fact a degustation link between the two. A quick keyword search reveals that pemmican, that stalwart of Heroic Era hampers, is more famous amongst paleo dieters these days. Paleo Diet and Living advises that ‘Before granola bars were mainstay, Pemmican was the ultimate portable snack food’, while the aptly named pemmican.com offers the dried meat snack as a ‘way of reconnecting with the great outdoors, timeless traditions and healthier lifestyles.’ If you don’t have time to head out and slay a bison before dinner, or if you find yourself in the wrong hemisphere to do so, you can always go for the pre packaged version.
Biscuits were another staple in early times, and they also come pre-packaged for convenience today. Huntley & Palmers have re released the biscuits Scott took on his fateful march to the Pole, making the small change of ‘substituting vegetable oil for lard as a concession to today’s tastes.’ They’re still jam packed full of energy though, so if you’re heading out for a trudge in the snow any time soon and want to make your chilly experience as close as possible to a trip back in time, they’re an indispensible accessory to your journey.
Then there is Shackleton’s Whisky. The story of the whisky, which was found beneath Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds in 2007, has been well documented by the Antarctic Heritage Trust in conjunction with Whyte and MacKay, the company responsible for the recreation of the amber liquid. You can read more about the Rare old Highland Malt here, but a dram of the replica has to be a highlight of any Antarctic culinary time travel. It’s a standalone masterpiece, and a great accompaniment to pemmican and biscuits. But what’s more, it tastes good in combination with the continent when served ‘on the rocks’.