Be it a missed craving for a crisp apple, a perfectly steamed artichoke, a juicy cheeseburger, or for me in particular, a CTC Columbia S.O.E latte, living on a remote island takes sacrifice. Cell phones, internet, and common facilities aside, food is one area you might think we would sacrifice the most for but here on Green Island culinary life isn’t so bad.
After an in-depth inventory of every food item remaining on the island to let the incoming crew what their shopping needs should be, it was clear what our group likes and what we won’t run out of. With some 1,500 plus snack bars, 125 pounds of oats/granola, and buckets upon buckets of beans both dry and canned, it’s certain we at least won’t go starving. For coffee, cheese, and other small formal items, we might soon see the days without them but again, we’re still lucky to have most of what we have here. As Noël has said, she’s still amazed because many of her past field camps were primarily basics like rice and beans. We’ve had a carton of ice cream each month we’ve been here so yeah, you could get my point.
Since my involvement in remote field work, I have found food or how we live to be the more sought after topic in conversation with others than necessarily the work we do. It’s a zany concept to bring out 6+ months of food all at once and never see a restaurant, farmer’s market, or grocery store that entire time as well. If you left it, forget it. I still remember the moment of showing someone a photo of the first island I worked on and for 5 minutes had to get them to comprehend that no; there was no Target, no Starbucks, no nothing. That all we had was just a well-stocked pantry with more Pop-Tarts than I had ever seen. So for all those who have been wondering how we eat here at Kure, rest assured we eat well. I’d give us four and half out of five stars and a B rating because come on; this is a field camp not a fancy restaurant without 100,000+ birds outside your doorstep.
Our biggest setback or lack of is that we don’t have any fresh food nor have since the day we stepped on the island. Aside from the difficulty in transporting these items the 1,200 miles it takes to get here often by boat, it’s hard to bring enough that wouldn’t go bad or get destroyed before it arrived. The bigger issue at hand is the island’s quarantine procedures. Not wanting to introduce anything more than what is already here, fresh food poses the possibility of doing so in being either a vector for an organism or growing itself. You learn to make do without these things despite the cravings surfacing from time to time. I feel if you just don’t think about it, it isn’t so bad.
What I can tell you though is that our menu has been rather extensive. The array of homemade items our camp has seen and the level put forth from each member in cooking is absolutely tremendous. As Martha mentioned, having been a member of many cooperatives living arrangements before, it is remarkable how good of a cook each one of us is and how we continue to strive to set the bar higher each time. From Andy’s perfected thin crust pizzas, Noël’s killer lasagna, Coryna’s handmade pita, tahini sauce, and baklava, Martha’s “Make Your Morning” sticking buns, Eryn’s pumpkin tacos, or this little infamous bread recipe of mine, we haven’t settled on pasta and a jar of sauce. Rarely is there roll over in the meals we’ve had and each night is a new masterpiece to taste and see. With each of us cooking about once a week, it’s easy to try new things and not get burned out had we had to cook every night.
One of the best parts to cooking here or at least the best thing to me is that you have access to so many ingredients. Putting aside the age or the brand, from spices to grains to an assortment of flours, it’s more than I’m used to having back home. Coryna said it best in relating it to living in a grocery store. It takes a quick trip to the bucket room and a walk up the aisle to find what you need. And with items like canned whole chicken, industrial sized cans of tuna fish, or over 21 varieties of hot sauce, there is always something lurking in a bucket that will certainly surprise you. It is the perfect setting for an episode of Iron Chef with a mystery ingredient.
With all that said, here are some tips from all of us here if you ever find yourself cooking remote-island style like we do. Eryn’s advice is to never expect things to turn out entirely the same as you’d expect them to be at home, Martha would have you know that cooking at sea-level is a different ball game than cooking at altitudes where she’s used to, Andy’s advice is to just be creative, Coryna feels there is more time to focus on a meal to make it special since you save time with pre-chopped canned/frozen items, my tip is to spice extra as things often loose potency, and Noël would just have you know it all doesn’t matter much because when you have a hungry audience, most anything will get eaten. Given most our meals are finished in fewer than 9 and half minutes, I think she has a point be it our hungry appetites or the good food we dish out at every lunch and dinner.
And okay, the biggest advice really is to never ever let the Sriracha bottle go empty without a replacement there ready and that baby spatula is the most important item in the entire kitchen. Hope you’re hungry.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
DLNR Kure crew member, Ryan Potter