Cooking in Antarctica


I have talked much about the influence of the radio on my life. It marks out my day – more especially the weekend, where I generally have more time to listen. The Food Programme on a Sunday generally finds me upstairs in the kitchen preparing lunch. Last week Dan Saladino presented an edition about Shackleton’s cook. Green made food in what must be the most extreme of climates. He provided comfort where there was little. Cooking on ice. The endless waiting involved in melting water, defrosting supplies. Working with next to nothing.

The cold scares me. My body cannot deal with it. I literally freeze up, my brain and body ceasing to function. I am in awe of those great explorers, the hardships they endured. I think of them often. The endless trekking through white. And the comfort of food. Not as indulgence but as a warming, nourishing filling-ness. Yet appetite scares me. It feels like it could be out-of-control, that hunger. Yet, I have never known real hunger. How might my idiosyncratic diet fare then? And yet, I know, I know it is not about the food but about the controlling of appetite. So complex and yet so simple. As with so much of life. How about we just let it be? To yield, to succumb, to acquiesce is seen as weakness, a reneging of control. And yet, is there not power in that letting go? To not resist what is.

I am tired. We have journeyed and journeyed. But it has been good. Such warm people. I need to sleep. It overpowers me at times. I stand at the end of the Perygyl and I could fall into sleep, fall into the water and sleep. I have to jerk myself awake. That glorious numbing of cloud, the horizon lost to the sea.

I re-read some of my school reports from when I was 14. Can I get a picture of her? I remember the fearfulness, the shyness, and yet, also a performing – a performer. Never quite good enough. That’s what I bring to such memories. But is it true? Die to the past, he commands. Yes. That might be good. I shall try. I shall try. What is left then? A white space. A white space of possibility. Like ice. Like ice.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.