Froodles: What People Are Eating in Antarctica
J. GarbeeFroodles On Ice
What exactly is a Froodle? Well, the next time you're at the farmers market, bemoaning the certainty that those colossal summer peaches will never arrive, take a moment to think about what (cold) scientists are eating at this very moment at McMurdo, the largest research station in Antarctica.
In the summer, they get fresh fruits and vegetables from New Zealand, but right now, it's a whole lot of frozen meats, canned fruits and vegetables, and potatoes. In other words, things that ship well to frozen continents, store well and can, preferably, be eaten frozen during those 30-degrees-below-zero lunch hours. Things like Froodles.
Froodles are farmer-turned-entrepreneur Bill Manning's latest second-tier fruit recycling project -- second-tier here does not mean flavorless, but simply high-quality fruit that is not glam enough for Whole Foods. Manning calls them "low-sugar dried fruit snacks," aka fruit leather that has been made with little sugar and a whole lot of fruit.
Less sugar, he says, means they're less sticky than many fruit leathers (we tried them and concur). More fruit also means the flavor combinations (apricot-apple, strawberry-rhubarb, and cherry-grape-peach) are pretty fantastic. Manning says Colorado's high-desert climate gives the fruit from which Froodles are made an intense flavor. The name? "We cut it in noodle-length strips to make it easy to eat," he says. Think tagliatelle, not spaghetti.
Which gets us back to Antarctica. Right now, Froodles' distribution is fairly limited -- you can order them online and find them in Colorado, with California and other states in the future distribution expansion wish-list (currently, the only California retailer is in San Luis Obispo). And so Manning says scientists at McMurdo have been shipping Froodles by the boxful to the research station.
Why? As Manning is the consummate salesman (and quite a likable one -- it must be his farmer side) he prefaces first by stating that, of course, "They like it for the [flavor/low sugar] reasons listed above." And, he adds, because Froodles "can be eaten at 50 degrees below zero with ease." They don't freeze rock hard (likely due to less sugar and the tire tread-like texture), which means they don't snap into pieces in your backpack or require reheating in order to eat them.
McMurdo has a web cam, but we didn't spot any Froodles, so we tested the freezing theory at much warmer temperatures (our freezer). The Froodles firmed up a bit but stayed chewy -- and were still quite tasty. Much better than frozen canned peaches, for sure.
Incidentally, should you find yourself planning a trip to the South Pole, NASA has a handy guide called "Your stay at McMurdo station," which begins with the rather grim-sounding statement that "housing facilities in McMurdo have improved greatly in recent years" (most visitors stay in Building 166, nicknamed The Hotel California). Meals are provided at the cafeteria, as cooking at home is strongly discouraged "due to the extreme fire hazard." Hot plates and such are banned. Yeah, it might be wise to bring an extra suitcase full of Froodles.
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