Many have asked what I do every day. I’m a Steward, or as the “locals” say, a Stewie.
We’re in charge of maintaining the dining hall. Basically, if the cooks don’t do it, we do. That includes maintain the buffet line during meal times, cleaning the lines, dishes, wiping the tables, vacuuming, making juice, tea, and coffee in the morning.
Before we begin the tour, it’s imperative you wash your hands. This is not optional. Also, no sandals or flip flops unless you’re wearing socks. Don’t be like me and only pack sandals that you can’t wear socks with otherwise you’ll hate life when you want to be lazy at 3am and grab a drink and have to don your hiking boots with your pajamas.
Please also remember you may not wear tank tops – no armpits! Nor your Big Red. You may, however, hang that up in one of the three rooms to the right of the hand-washing station. Just down “Highway One”, the main hall in Building 155 where the galley is located… it’s also the building in which I live. It makes the commute convenient and warm. Especially nice for that 3am apple juice.
Now that you’re ready for the tour….
The below photo was taken from the middle of the main food-serving station. We serve three hot meals per day from the buffet line (4 in the summer). In between meals we always have a self-serve deli line and a refrigerator full of leftovers to choose from. Because we never “close” our deep-clean moment of the day is done between lunch and dinner instead of after dinner. It’s nice because we get to leave pretty quickly once dinner is over. All the photos below, by the way are 360-degree photos. WordPress demands that I purchase a business membership to access the plug-in that allows them to load properly (which I’m not all about, that’s $200). SO. If you’re my Facebook friend, pop on over to my timeline and see them there. If you’re not, they’re also available on my Flikr photo sharing page. It’s located here. I also post a bunch more photos there than I do here… check it out!
This is our main dish area. “Patrons” of our establishment pass in their dishes through the window on the way out of the galley.
Our bigger pieces are washed in the Pot Room or “Pots”. In the afternoon sometimes you’ll see all four of the Stewies on shift back here together working to knock out the hundreds of hotel pans that can pile up pretty quickly when you’re cooking three meals for 139 people. I can’t imagine how many pans we’ll have to clean this summer when it’s four meals for 1,000 people! And yes, the music is always blaring in this room.
Most of the actual cooking is done somewhere in the below photograph. What I haven’t included here are the six(?) walk-in fridge/freezers we have in this building alone and all the storage rooms and three prep rooms (you can kind of see the alcoves here). We also have storage outside of this building somewhere on base. I was quoted once that should McMurdo be cut off from the rest of the world for any reason we have enough food to last everyone on station at any time for two years.
And OF COURSE we have a bakery! Our current baker, Jen, flew in on the same flight I did. In fact, most of our kitchen staff flew in on my flight. It’s nice because I got to know many of them in Christchurch.
Simply because part of my job includes taking out the trash…here’s also the trash area! As you can see, though the room has walls, it’s not heated so the elements like to invade a little bit. We have a spare jacket or two hanging by the door in case we have to be out here for an extended period of time but I like “roughing” it. The yellow can you can see through the door is for food waste. Across the road you can see the recycling and landfill containers. We super-sort ALL or our trash here. I’ll cover that in a later post.
Oh. In case you’re wondering, all the food is provided at no-cost to employees. Anyone at McMurdo can swing in and grab a bite to eat for free any time of the day. The only thing you do have to pay for is alcohol at the bar and anything extra (like candy bars) you buy at the station convenience store. Though, I was told a liter of Jameson is less than $30 so even that’s pretty cheap!
Now that you’ve seen the rest of the building, grab a seat!
The lower section is nicknamed “the republican section”. 90% of the conversations you’ll overhear walking through this area are either about work or politics. There are only two types of people at McMurdo. Those that sit down there, and those that I like to compare to “burners” as in all my friends that attend regional Burning Man events. These are all the alternative awesome weirdos. For the most part they all sit in the upper deck. There’s a spot where they’ve pushed together 3-4 tables and everyone just kind of rotates through this community table as they come in.
One of the girls down here mentioned to me today that some of the current staff have been reading my blog. Yes, we are ALL weird. I fucking love it. A quote from another blog that I’m pretty sure I have somewhere else on this blog is that the dating scene for women (right now there’s approximately 30 women at the station… our total population is 139… so..20%?) “the odds are good, but the goods are odd”. Odd is accurate.