There are 25 scientists on the Knorr, and 24 crew members. (And then me -- the weird one with the camera). That's 50 people altogether...which makes operating the Knorr quite a logistical feat. And that includes feeding us.
How is your food? What are they feeding you? Is it like space food or more like everyday food? Brian from North Carolina
A few days ago, Michele, the head steward, took me on a little tour of the kitchen and food storage areas. The mess deck (where we eat) and the kitchen and storage are at the front of the boat. So when we went down into the food stores, I could feel the rise and fall of the ship more than most places. Thankfully for everyone, I managed not to lose my lunch onto the frozen meats (of which there were many, many varieties in that freezer).
So where does all that food come from? The stewards refill their stocks at each port. So while the scientists loaded the boat with their equipment, Michele loaded her store rooms with meats, veggies and beans that were delivered to the dock. Often that means that cooks are using local foods and ingredients. Michele cooked us Portuguese beans one night, and we've had rolls and milk from Portuguese companies. That also means that some things have to come from far away - some of the fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, had to come from Spain since they were hard to find in Portugal.
Michele and the cook, Erskine, plan meals about a day in advance. They've got two big walk-in freezers below deck where they keep fish, meat, vegetables and other frozen foods. When they figure out what they're going to make, they pull the frozen food out of the freezer and into the thawing room. [Edit: I forgot to mention Thomas here, who's the mess attendant. He helps Michele and Erskin all day, carrying food up, cleaning the kitchen and eating area, and stocking our supplies of tea and snacks. Without him, I would have no Snickers bars to munch on at midnight. Which makes him extremely important.]
Here's the meal schedule:
7:30-8:45 is breakfast. That usually means eggs to order, some kind of potatoes, grits, oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, cereal, that kind of stuff.
11:350-12:15 is lunch. Everything from grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches to chicken wings to tacos along with salads, coleslaw, fruit and other side dishes.
3:00 is cheese o'clock. They put out a cheese plate with meats and lox and crackers and freshly baked bread.
5:00-5:30 is dinner time. There's almost always some kind of meat and some kind of fish. Then sides like potatoes prepared in various ways, steamed vegetables, fried rice, etc. And, of course, dessert. Yesterday it was cheesecake. Sometimes it's pie or cookies or ice cream.
8:00 They put out snacks for the evening - nuts, cookies, chips, candies.
Basically, there is always food, and it's not anything like space food. It's good! Yesterday there was wasabi and sesame crusted grilled tuna. It was delicious. Michele also makes tasty pies, muffins, bread, and all sorts of other baked goods. My biggest problem isn't going to be not eating enough, but exactly the opposite. And aside from feeding us constantly, they don't skimp on the portions either. Ask for a "little bit" or "small amount" of anything, and you get a skeptical eye and a full plate. One scientist on board told me that she goes to sleep just to stop eating.
Storing, prepping, and serving all that food isn't easy. Michele and Erskine have to lug everything they need up the stairs from the storage area, cut, wash, slice and cook it all in the kitchen as the boat sways back and forth (and up and down, and all the other directions too). I'm impressed.
One amazing thing (to me at least) is that it's day nine, and we still have fruits and vegetables at meals, and apparently we will for a lot of the trip. That means that the strawberries, tomatoes, and lettuce have survived for weeks. That's way better than my success rate with fruit (as my poor roommates can attest). Michele has all sorts of tricks for keeping fruits and veggies fresh - she freezes them, wraps them up, and keeps them in closed containers. The refrigerator on the ship also has an ozone emitter, which keeps fruits from going bad...for a little while at least. I've heard that during the last week of the cruise, there will be a lot of meat and potatoes.
Most of the vegetarians (and vegans) on board have given up their diets for the month - myself included. Thankfully there's a gym on board - a few machines in a spare room - which I should probably go visit right about now.
During this trip, I’ll be answering your questions about the science, this boat, and life onboard. Want to know how we search for plankton, why we’re here, or what the food is like? Just ask me! And if you’re wondering how I got here, check out the groups that made this adventure possible: Mind Open Media and COSEE NOW.
Previously in this series: