As promised, here’s the story on McMurdo’s MidWinter party, the official halfway point of the winter season, the biggest party and apparently booziest night of the year (which around here, believe me, is saying something).
For me, it was a long (but not unpleasant or difficult) day followed by absolutely no partying since I’d drawn the short straw and had to work the early breakfast shift the next day (and also, because, well, this is me we’re talking about. My idea of partying is a Lord of the Rings movie marathon… the extended DVDs, oh yeeeeeaaahhh…). I’m not complaining about working early the next day, either, since it meant I got to leave early enough to do the Polar Plunge. And we all know how that turned out.
This MidWinter was a special deal as it marked the 100th anniversary of Scott’s final MidWinter celebration (he reportedly started the tradition) before he schlepped off towards the South Pole the following summer and perished in the frozen wastelands.
The volunteers who decked out the galley for the event really took the historical theme to heart and did an amazing job on the decorations, including building a replica of Scott’s hut at Cape Evans to serve as a photo op.
I especially loved that they used flags because they’re such a part of Antarctic culture. Using different colors and formations, flags tell you where to go, where not to go, what’s going on under your feet that you can’t see (crevasse dangers, seal breathing holes, etc.), how far you’ve gone…
Once inside the galley, festgoers were greeted with familiar props made magical with the addition of rope lights…
Yours truly trying to look all explorer-y during a brief break from cooking. Keep in mind the camera adds ten pounds and my ridiculously baggy chef outfit adds another 20… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
While the awesome decorating volunteers were busy transforming the galley and others were busy transforming themselves (see below), the galley crew was busy getting all fancy with the food.
Among the “stuff we don’t do every day” on the menu was ice cream, made with nitrogren and a mixer since we don’t have an ice cream maker.
The desserts were out of control. I made a couple contributions in this area: French Macarons in two flavors, almond and chocolate-orange, and Limoncello Panna Cotta with Raspberry Gelee insert, which I made mostly because I wanted to eat it. And I did.
Josie and her man Neil made a most excellent gingerbread recreation of Scott’s Discovery Hut, the one that’s walking distance from McMurdo.
And then there was Sir Oinks-a-Lot, our guest of honor, which Francis brined and primed and lavished much love on before stuffing and shoving in the oven.
Among the menu items were sweet pea and carrot flan, tea-smoked duck, cilantro and coconut-infused halibut with beurre blanc and blue cheese and bacon-stuffed filet mignon.
I volunteered to do the vegetarian entree. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but it took a few tries to realize my artistic vision, which basically was “let’s make the tofu no one ever eats here as fussy and complicated as possible.”
My suggestion to call it “Tofu Bird’s Nest Fantasia” was overruled, but I was happy with the look and taste and fussiness of the finished product, “Poached Tofu and Vegetable Ragout in a Filo Nest.” For the record, it was wine-poached tofu “eggs” with vegetable ragout, caramelized onions and a balsamic reduction (and fresh parsley–thanks, Emily!) nestled in filo.
Yes, the “eggs” are dumplings made from tofu. I experimented with a couple different concepts before getting it right. I found a traditional Hungarian dessert dumpling recipe that someone had tweaked online to be vegan, using tofu. I tweaked it further by getting rid of the sugar and changing the cooking method. And voila!
And yes, every one of those damn eggs, each no bigger than a quail’s egg, had a “yolk” in the center. I don’t think anyone noticed, but I knew. And that’s what mattered.
A few final shots for those of you always whining that I don’t have enough photos with people in them. Happy MidWinter, everyone!!