EN VOYAGE – Hibernia – PART TWO

24 Jul 2003

Meals on the rig are cafeteria style, often with a background of East Coast music. Breakfast is to be available 24 hours a day, as is supper. Often men will come in dog-tired at 7 a.m. from working all night long and expect “supper”, a steak and all the trimmings. A salad bar, better organized and filled than ones at many mainland restaurants, is placed in a prominent position to encourage lighter eating. Chowders and hearty soups are very popular. There are always two potato dishes and two other vegetables plus three hot entrées and, the requisite steak. Pizza dough is made the day before and these wise cooks make extra so there will be toutons, the truly Newfie speciality of fried chunks of bread that are served, warm and absolutely delicious, with molasses. No alcohol is permitted on board (it’s just too dangerous) so there are many juices, coffee and, naturally for Newfoundlanders, tea.

Supplying this kitchen is a huge challenge. All food, five to seven containers per week, must be transported by ship from St. John’s and only rarely does any arrive on the helicopter shuttle. It’s unloaded by crane from the supply boat, often heaving in heavy seas. On board there is always 15 days worth of food in either dry storage, freezers and refrigerators.

“How’s this for a grocery list?” writes Geoff Meeker in the rig’s own magazine “Frontier”. “Every week Hibernia platform staff (averaging 235 right now in November), chew up 1,200 pounds of bread, 1,000 pieces of pie, 3,240 glasses of fruit juice, 850 pounds of French fries, 875 pounds of steak, 600 pounds of fish, 300 pounds of vegetables, 1,800 pieces of fruit, 135 liters of ice cream, 900 liters of milk and 2,160 eggs. Fortunately, there is a fully equipped workout room on the platform.”

The storage area holds gallons of maple syrup, restaurant packs of mustard pickle and pickled beets — particular favourites with salt beef — and 10 pound blocks of Callebaut chocolate, about the best baking chocolate available anywhere. The kitchens are stainless and spotless with windows onto the ocean…and the fog. Life on board is not easy…3 weeks straight with no days off. It takes mental stamina. But, as Joe Delaney teases “It’s the only job I’ve had that I’ve been paid to watch whales.” That day there were humpback feeding.

Anita Stewart, of Elora, Ontario, is an award-winning freelance journalist and culinary activist

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