Swapping Rice for Ice. Ethical Eating in Antarctica!

I have been an onshore volunteer for Sea Shepherd for the last few years and so I was very excited when I was called upon earlier last  year to crew with the organisation in Australia.  Despite the thrill and trepidation of the imminent adventure,  it was with a very heavy heart that I temporarily had to leave behind Rice Up- a project I have been heavily involved in since its conception  and through to it’s grand opening last year.

seashepSea Shepherd is a marine conservation organisation that is most famous  (or maybe that should be infamous?) for employing  non violent direction action  to stop the illegal slaughtering of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Antartica. Each year Sea Shepherd sends a small fleet of ships down to the bottom of the world to confront these poachers and by putting themselves between them and the whales, saves hundreds of these sentient beings each winter- 932 last year alone. I was very privileged to be invited to join the ‘action ship’, the Bob Barker as a cook and so  at the end of July I flew to Melbourne to assist in feeding the crews and preparing the ships for this  year’s campaign: Operation Relentless. Since mid December the Bob Barker and my fellow crew of 33 people have been at sea, sailing Antarctic waters preparing to meet the Japanese whaling fleet and sabotage their efforts.

All food on the ship is vegan, meaning we don’t cook with any animal products. This is mainly thanks to the insistence of previous Sea Sheperd cooks who recognised that to go to so much effort to save one type of animal whilst eating the bodies and products of other exploited ones would be hypocritical; not to mention the environmental factors involved. Currently, a third of fish caught in the world’s oceans are actually fed to our livestock, another example of the wasteful nature of animal agriculture as opposed to eating plant based sources of food in the first place. (If this destructive behaviour continues the world’s fish stocks will be completely depleted by 2048.)

Cooking all vegan food also makes it a convenient way to feed a crew made up of meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans- of which I would estimate around half of the crew already are when they arrive. I think some non vegans probably come to crew thinking that they will be ‘going without’ and surviving on nothing but lentils whilst they’re here but I think it’s fair to say crew are provided with a varied and exciting diet and I  hope by doing so we manage to a change a few unfair perceptions of vegan food being bland and boring.

Food plays a huge part in daily life on the ship, boosting morale after a long and tiring day’s training outside on deck and ensuring everyone is well nourished by providing three tasty and nutritionally balanced meals a day- plus snacks! On days where the crew are unable to work outside, meals times are eagerly anticipated and help break the monotony of one hundred days cooped up at sea in a relatively small space.

Christmas aboard the ship also involved a lot of food:  a big cooked breakfast started the day off nicely and then we had a ‘Southern Hemisphere’ lunch which was typical Australian fare of coleslaw, potato salad, dips, fresh fruit along with tofurky slices and cranberry slices. Our evening ‘Northern Hemisphere’ dinner was more familiar territory: lots of roasted potatoes and vegetables, gravy and enough seitan roast to feed our large crew twice over.  I also managed to make a gingerbread house and a huge yule log despite rolling waves outside making delicate decorations very difficult!

General feeling on board the Bob is that this will be a long campaign- the whalers seem to be more persistent each year, despite Sea Shepherd being more successful  and the number of whales saved increasing significantly each year. One positive aspect of having a lot of time on our hands and lots of hungry mouths to feed is the opportunity to experiment with new recipes and inspiration which I hope will benefit Rice Up when I get back. I think a big thank you is in order to all the staff and volunteers who have been working so hard to keep the business growing whilst I am away and to everyone who keeps walking through our doors:  never underestimate the importance of supporting your  local co-operative grocery; we couldn’t exist without you!

For now, I’d like to include the recipe for the chocolate yule log I made on Christmas day. I added a dusting of icing sugar and some plastic holly sprigs, but do away with the Christmassy additions and you’ve got yourself a tasty swiss roll recipe instead. More recipes will be sent from Antarctica soon!

To make one Yule log or Swiss Roll:

2 Cups Self Raising flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
¼ Cup Cocoa Powder
2 Ripe Bananas
2 Tbsp Lemon juice (or you can use vinegar)
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Warm Water
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essense
½ Cup Sunflower Oil (or any tasteless oil will work, but don’t use olive)
½ Cup Water or Soya Milk

For the icing:
2 Cups Dairy Free Margarine
2 Cups Icing Sugar
¼  Cup Cocoa Powder

1/ Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
2/ In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and then mix in the lemon, sugar, warm water and oil. Whisk together until smooth and fluffy.
3/ Combine together the wet and dry mix- incorporating the dry mixture a bit at a time to ensure a smooth mix.
4/ Line a medium size shallow tin with greaseproof paper and then pour in the cake batter and smooth down with a spoon.
5/ Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes at a medium temperature. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to cool thoroughly.
6/ Once cool, carefully lift the cake from the tin onto a chopping board or work surface.  Make the icing by combining the margarine, icing sugar and cocoa powder- if it is too thick add water a teaspoon at a time, or if it is too runny, add more icing sugar or cocoa. Spread some of this mixture on top of the cake to create the filling. Add this stage you could also add jam if you wanted to get decadent.
7/ The next stage is to carefully roll the cake up so that the icing is inside, carefully peeling off the paper as you go. Don’t worry if you get cracks at this stage or even if the whole thing falls apart- see step 8!
8/ Once you have a roll, use the rest of the icing to cover the entire thing including the ends of the roll if you wish-this final stage  is where you can discreetly cover up any mishaps  your log might have incurred!

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