Confirmation – Cheers!

I’ve given a series of talks here in Hobart recently, explaining my research project to a range of audiences. My PhD confirmation seminar was officially up at the Humanities campus, but as I’m also based down at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, it was only right to give a talk down there as well. (Then there was the presentation for the journalism course I’m taking for a graduate certificate in research, plus the APECS online conference… taken together, they’re the reason I’m typing right now, not recording a podcast!)

Some really insightful questions have emerged from each of these talks, and I look forward to discussing various points further with both audience members and my supervisors. For now, though, I’m writing all about food.

Everyone knows that the sure fire way to gather a group of postgraduate students and a quick notice is to send out a mass email with the title ‘free food.’ I haven’t resorted to bribery and corruption just yet, but there are a couple of foods and drinks with a direct link to my project, so I couldn’t resist bringing them along. If you’re hungry already, you might want to grab a muesli bar before reading on…

Mawson's Cabernet Sauvignon 2010First up, there’s the Mawson wine. This is made by Yalumba, the same company that sponsored Mawson’s AAE expedition 100 years ago. Back then, Yalumba used photos of the men revelling in the Antarctic in a domestic ad campaign back in Australia. These days, Douglas Mawson’s face adorns the bottle of their white, while another series is named after the ‘Far Eastern Sledging Party.’ On my first visit to Hobart I had no trouble finding bottles of the stuff, but recently it’s been harder. I was successful on the day of my confirmation, with my 9am trip to the liquor store with a very specific request paying off – as I presented my project, the audience sipped on history and learnt all about it. In fact, this was so successful that by the end of my talk there was none left! I am yet to find another bottle, but in the meantime, every subsequent trip to the bottle shop counts as ‘research’, right?

Of course wine is nothing without a little something to nibble, but I had that base covered too. Huntly and Palmers re-released a biscuit based on the recipe they created for Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition, just in time for the centenary celebrations of 2011-2014. We’ve seen a whole series of ‘100 years since’ events recently, including ‘100 years since Amundsen reached the Pole’, ‘100 years since Scott perished’ and ‘100 years since the news of the expeditions reached the outside world.’ The biscuits tap right into this tradition, with the label proclaiming ‘Captain Scott’s Biscuits.’ The story of the Terra Nova expedition appears on the side of the box, but my favourite aspect is the assertion that the biscuits are ‘High Energy, Low Cholesterol.’ That speaks volumes about the changes that have occurred amongst consumers over the past century – cholesterol was not top of the list of concerns for the men of the Heroic Era, that’s for sure.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.07.42 AM I’ve got several packets of these biscuits, lovingly carried form London to Ushuaia by a friend, via South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The corners of the cardboard packaging are a little worse for wear, but it is displayed like a trophy above my desk. All the biscuits, by the way, are still intact – I offer them to my audience every talk, but their close resemblance to regurgitated porridge has meant no one has taken me up on the offer yet.

There are of course other examples of food and drink with Antarctic links – Shackleton’s Whisky deserves a post of its own, and the penguins of ‘Bluebird’ chips fame are sure to come up again. Then there’s ‘Antarctic’ brand beer, Fry’s Cocoa, even Weetbix Collector’s cards – the list goes on. For now, though, my PhD candidature has been confirmed, so there’s plenty of time yet to plan the next menu for any further milestones that sit on the horizon.

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