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Carol Devine and Wendy Trusler on five-star cooking in Antarctica

Co-authors Carol Devine and Wendy Trusler on their account of working (and eating) in Antarctica.
Carol Devine and Wendy Trusler wrote The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning based on their experiences during an Antarctic expedition in 1996.

The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning is somewhat reminiscent of Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush — both are memoirs of women managing life on a frontier. The seeds of the book were planted about 20 years ago, when Carol Devine led an ecological cleanup expedition to a Russian research station in Antarctica. Her one condition was that she could hire a cook, and ended up bringing along Wendy Trusler, an artist who had cooked for tree-planting camps across Canada for about nine seasons and was feeling "ready for an adventure." Together they've created The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning. It uses journal entries, maps, meal lists and recipes to tell the story of their time in one of the most remote corners of the world.

An Antarctic camp (Carol Devine)


Carol Devine: When the research station was set up in the 1950s and 60s, they weren't thinking about how to get it out. They were concentrating on doing their science. They brought a lot of stuff down, and then a lot of it just got abandoned. We saw fridges, lots of oil pipes from a nearby fuelling station, and then you had just daily garbage that people would put to the side. A lot of metal, cutlery, paint chips... we picked up all kinds of funny things.


​Wendy Trusler: We were on a Russian base so I incorporated Russian cuisine, and within walking distance was the Chilean base and a Uruguayan base and a Chinese base. So I collected recipes and started testing them in our own kitchen. For example, the first recipes I got were from a Russian glaciologist, and she gave me a recipe for sea cabbage salad. Which is in fact kelp. So I harvested kelp one day. 

Carol Devine's and Wendy Trusler's comments have been edited and condensed.

Roasted beet salad (Sandy Nicholson)


I was so pleased with myself when I made a "Russian Salad" from one of the cookbooks I brought even after Lena enlightened me that she'd never had anything remotely like it in Russia. It turns out the combination of beets, cucumbers and hard-cooked eggs, tossed with sour cream is more Scandinavian in origin. A classic Russian Vinaigrette, which is what Lena called "their" beet salad, starts with beets and varies its extra bits from region to region and household to household. 

Frankly, I don't know why you'd want to add anything to it — tossed with a simple French vinaigrette (that is to say, the dressing), the earthy goodness of the beet shines through. 

2 pounds small to medium beets ⁄⁄ 1 clove of garlic ⁄⁄ 1⁄2 cup rice vinegar ⁄⁄ 2 tablespoons honey ⁄⁄ salt and pepper to taste ⁄⁄ 2 tablespoons fresh dill fronds (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F. Wash and trim the tops from the beets — I like the way the ends taper so I leave them intact. Plus this minimizes "bleeding" while they cook. Wrap the beets in foil in groups of four and place on a baking sheet. Roast until they are tender and a paring knife slips easily into their centres, 20–25 minutes for small beets or 30–40 minutes for larger beets. Unwrap to cool. 

While the beets are roasting mince the garlic and put it in a medium bowl with the honey and rice vinegar. Whisk and set aside. 

When the beets are cool enough to handle gently rub off the skins. Cut lengthwise into wedges to make the most of their contours and add to the bowl containing the dressing. Mix well and let stand for at least an hour before serving. Season with salt and pepper and dill fronds if using. 

Makes enough for six people.


From The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning by Wendy Trusler & Carol Devine. ©2015 HarperDesign.