Newsletter 2611 May 2010
Base Camp Salmon
Even though I tried to stay away from writing about food and what our team was served for dinner at base camp, I simply cannot deprive our readers from the amazing feast we had on Saturday night, when “Base Camp Salmon’ was on the menu.
The exciting thing is that we actually had Norwegian Salmon here as it is such a great product. And I was truly honoured when I was asked to cook it,” said Gabriel Viti, one of the Himex clients, who is a chef and runs two restaurants and a bar near Chicago. On Saturday afternoon, Gabriel and ‘Gnarly’, one of the Himex guides who used to be a chef, descended on the kitchen tent to show our cook team new methods of preparing salmon.
“It was great to share the kitchen with Tashi, Lakchu, Phuri, Pasang and Mingma and we all joined forces to make Saturday night’s meal a very special one,” Gabriel continued.
For the kitchen team, the experience to cook with someone like Gabriel and Gnarly was also very special. “We had such fun and we learned so much. The best thing was the way Gabriel prepared the mashed potatoes,” Tashi said. “We normally never eat what we cook for the clients but last night we all had the salmon dish and it was delicious,” he continued.
For Gabriel, cooking at base camp was a welcome change to sitting in his tent or the White Pod, reading or listening to music. “I spent about two hours in the kitchen tent cooking away, and I really enjoyed it. We even had to ‘employ’ guard to make sure that the salmon, we put outside to cool down, was not eaten by the birds.”
Preparing salmon at altitude was not at all different from cooking it at sea level as the dish did not require any air cushion. “I think preparing something like a meringue could be more of a challenge as it needs more air,” he said.
Cost is not a problem
For Russell, good food is one of the most important things during an expedition. “Sometimes people think they have to take supplementary vitamins or proteins but we are trying to provide the right diet for our clients, so they don’t have to take all that extra stuff,” he said.
When shopping for ingredients in Kathmandu, the kitchen crew also knows that they have more or less a free hand at buying the right food. “The ‘Big Boss’ always tells us that cost is not a problem and that good food is important to have on an Everest expedition,” Tashi told me.
The atmosphere in our dining tent was very telling and everyone was quiet enjoying this amazing meal. “This is just mind-blowing – I never thought that I would ever have something like this up here,” a gobsmacked Helmut said. Jens even went as far as finishing Gabriel’s salmon as the chef had eaten too much during his cooking.
You might wonder now, where we the Norwegian salmon came from. It was actually flown up from Kathmandu in one of the helicopters that rescued our client. In order to keep it fresh, Himex has brought up a deep freeze, which is powered every day for a few hours using the generator, which also powers our espresso machine. “Fortunately we need to provide the deep freeze with electricity for a few hours per day as it gives us the opportunity to enjoy a good cup of coffee,” Monica said.
The fact that Lakchu and Tashi, the main chefs in our base camp kitchen, have met and cooked with Gabriel could change their summer plans for this year. “I am trying to get them to Chicago to cook in my two restaurants for a couple of months. That would be great as I really enjoy working with these guys,” said Gabriel.
Kathmandu back to normal
While we are enjoying the luxuries of Everest base camp, the situation in Kathmandu has calmed down and the general strike has been called off. At the end of last weeks, the Maoists announced that they were ending the strike that had taken seven days and completely crippled the capital for the duration. Thanks to the new mobile phone connection at base camp, I received the news hot off the press when my friend Sam rang me to tell me the latest development. “The strike is over and we are celebrating,” she said excitedly. As mentioned in the last Newsletter, the situation in Kathmandu was becoming pretty dire with supplies running out, people getting aggressive and tourists canceling their trips to Nepal.
Whether or not the situation in Kathmandu will remain calm, remains to be seen, however, we can only hope that tourists, trekkers and climbers are still inclined to visit this beautiful country and its stunning mountain scenery.
As far as the Everest season is concerned, the waiting game is still on and the climbers’ patience will certainly be stretched hoping for the weather window to arrive soon. As expeditions from other Himalayan mountains are starting to come back to Kathmandu, I have to go back to the capital to help Miss Hawley and my colleague Jeevan interview expeditions for the Himalayan Database.
But with mobile phone contact, I will be in constant contact with the Himex expedition and will provide you with the latest news from base camp, what is happening in the Everest region and the summit push as well as I can.