Food adds to the quality of expedition life

Ted Daeschler in his tent on a previous expedition. Food aside, without any sources of heat, a sleeping bag is the best place to shake the chill. Temperatures hover around freezing, and drizzle/sleet are common.

Food is a big part of the quality of life during our field season in Nunavut. The landscape is austere, the temperature is low (35-45 degrees), the days are long (actually, July it is one long day), and camp life is fairly monotonous. Food is sustenance and calories, but it is also entertainment and comfort.

We go to considerable effort to bring quality foodstuffs, most acquired from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Sam’s Club, Starbucks, and the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop. Our buying trips in May usually elicit questions from the stores’ staff as we load our baskets with pounds of chocolate, coffee, granola, and other commodities.

After our shopping forays we spread out our harvest in a research area at the Academy of Natural Sciences and un-package, vacuum seal, consolidate, count, inventory, and pack the food for its northbound journey. We provision our food carefully to avoid excess weight and packaging. Cans, for example, are heavy and create trash – we don’t bring any canned food.

Key elements of our breakfast and lunch are good coffee, granola, fine salami and cheese, hearty crackers, candy bars, and energy bars (usually Clif, but we’re trying some more varieties this year). Cooking dinner is part of our limited entertainment options. We often start with dried beans and dehydrated elements (meat and vegetables) that are brought back to life in a pressure cooker.

Our white chili recipe, for example, starts with two pounds of dried garbanzo beans, pearled barley, and premium dehydrated chicken and onions with cubed chicken stock, to which we add jalapeno peppers, garlic, cumin and marjoram. The results are steaming bowls of delicious fare that accept hot sauce and grated cheddar cheese for a result that warms to body and soul. Dessert is a bit of dark chocolate.

The effort in making our meals more than calorie intake is well worth the additional thought and expense. The cost of shipping to the research base at Resolute Bay in Nunavut is high ($10/pound). Shipping costs far more than the food itself. Relative to the other expenses of the expedition, however, the extra attention to food is well worth it.

This is a lesson that is worth carrying home as well.