Written by Betty Trummel
Peggy Malloy is spending her 17th season on the ice in McMurdo. She’s had two other jobs in McMurdo besides being in charge of the food room. She started her Antarctic experience with jobs at both Crary Lab and the Heavy Shop as the materials person for those locations. A materials person would be working on keeping things organized and getting supplies for people. This is Peggy’s 10th year as the food room coordinator at the Berg Field Center (BFC). Peggy says she’s someone that likes to organize! She plays an integral part in the science work that takes place during each summer science field season.
Peggy’s job is a vital one for the scientists going out to field camps. She typically works with the smaller field groups of 11 people or less. Larger groups arrange their food through the galley (the kitchen and where we have our meals). When scientists make arrangements to head into the field for research, they submit a plan and food order to Peggy and she makes sure the items are ordered and in stock once the new season is underway. This takes a great deal of careful planning, and the food orders can take weeks to complete.
Peggy pulled the food/snack order for the WISSARD test site. Our remote field camp is too large (30+ people) for her to pull that food order for our meals. It sounds like we’ll have frozen microwave meals for our 2-3 weeks at the Lake Whillans field camp. I’d rather cook the food we can get from Peggy’s store room. I enjoy cooking and have done a lot of backpack cooking for family and friends. Food is a big morale booster in the field. As Peggy said, there’s something special about cooking your own food in a tent or camp. After a long day of work you can enjoy a delicious meal.
Peggy orders all of her food items in June of each year. Those items are shipped to a port in southern California (by December) and loaded onto a cargo ship bound for McMurdo. The cargo gets delivered to McMurdo in the following February, and doesn’t get used until at least October of that year. Talk about planning ahead!
Just before ice breakers make their way into McMurdo Sound in January, Peggy is taking inventory of all of her food items left at the BFC. Once the re-supply vessel follows the ice breakers into McMurdo, everything she’s ordered the previous May shows up and is unloaded, brought to the BFC and restocked. Damaged items are put on her “free” shelf and the McMurdo community is able to take what they want. She works hard to get as much unpacked and organized before she leaves later in February to head home to Colorado.
Peggy’s organizational skills are really valued by scientists in the field. By the time science teams are ready to pack up and head into the field, Peggy has already given them a complete list of what food is available. Teams make an appointment to view the food, stacked high on shelves in Peggy’s own little grocery store. Scientists get together with their teams to plan out meals and identify what they need. They also take dehydrated food for emergencies.
When they come to her food distribution room they “pull” their orders and put all of their supplies on the table or floor. This process can take a while as scientists modify their orders. When they are finishing up, Peggy lends her expertise and gives suggestions to the group. For example, a group might have chosen cereal but forgotten the milk. Peggy says some teams tend to go overboard, and sometimes she jumps in to make suggestions about amounts of food needed in the field. She says it’s easier to re-supply the camps (if that’s possible) and send out more food later than to have them bring heaps of food back to her. When science teams are out in the field and need additional food supplies, they radio or email Peggy and she pulls their orders. Often these are sent by helicopter, since many science teams do not come back into McMurdo until their research is completed. Peggy makes sure things are running smoothly throughout this process.
Once the field group is finished, Peggy scans the barcodes of each and every item. She needs to keep an accurate count of what is taken from the food room. When field parties return, she scans in the items they bring back to her. Unopened or undamaged items can be put back on shelves for later use. Frozen food items cannot be put back in the freezer and will often go to the galley.
Peggy’s “grocery store” has so many food items and I’ve attempted to share this with you in the photos throughout this blog post. She also has freezer items like steaks, chicken, shrimp, vegetables, vegetarian and vegan items, cheeses, breads and bagels. Peggy makes her own gorp (a mixture of various sweet or savory items…like trail mix). She has 4 varieties: regular (nuts and sweets), butterscotch (regular with butterscotch chips added), a fruit and nut mix, and a savory mix. She also has a huge supply of spices and sauces…everything from A-1 Steak Sauce to peanut sauce.
One of my favorite things is that she even has a cookbook…”The Antarctic Field Camp Cookbook.” It’s full of recipes and tips for menu planning and helpful camp cooking tips. In the introduction of the cookbook, Peggy writes that “this publication is designed not only for the first timer, but the seasoned veteran with years of ice experience.” The copy I received today is the THIRD edition of the cookbook. Peggy mentioned that she started the cookbook because when she first got this job she was amazed at how many people didn’t know what to do in terms of cooking, when headed into a field camp. They couldn’t plan menus or figure out serving sizes, and they didn’t have recipes. She’s made all that pretty easy, and with such a personal touch!
Austin, if you are reading this blog, look….OREO’S….our favorite!
Peggy has a great deal of enthusiasm for this job, and she shared some of the reasons why she loves it. Everyone who comes in here is happy — they are getting things they like to eat! She is able to listen to her own music and put up family photos around her work space. She has a place of her own here in McMurdo, where your own space can be hard to find. She also claims to be in introvert, but as Dave filmed her today she really opened up and was proud to share her work in the food room with our education and outreach group.
Peggy’s job is quite important to the success of science research projects in the field. Staying healthy is critical, and keeping morale up with great dinners and other meals can make all the difference.
THANKS to Peggy for a great tour and for the candy bar I got to pick out at the end of the time spent with her.
P.S. Peggy’s daughter sent her the coolest homemade Advent calendar for the holiday season! Peggy gets to open a new little card each day, with a surprise written or taped inside. She also gets a piece of chocolate with each day of the Advent calendar. How clever and thoughtful her daughter is!