Sub-zero temperatures, harsh conditions, and ice as far as the eye can see... not exactly where you'd expect someone to set up a French-fry stand? Well, Dutch-born visual artist Arjen Boerstra is planning to do just that.
“This project is about making French fries in an unexpected place,” Boerstra tells SBS - and Antarctica is certainly that. Intrigued by the 1970s phenomenon of fry bakers flooding the streets of Holland, Boerstra is on a mission of the spud variety as he plans to undertake this adventure within the next 12-24 months.
In 2004, Arjen Boerstra first took his potato shack dreams to a potato farm in northern Holland. Boerstra built his very own wooden fry shack, fully equipped for service, with salt and mayonnaise at the ready. He positioned his shack directly on the potato farm and served those who worked on the farm freshly cooked fries.
More potatoes, more fries, but this time a brand-new location. In 2007, he set up a shack at Paal 3, about an hour walk away from the Wadden Sea Island of Terschelling. With virtually no people in sight and no phone reception available – so no way to call in a plan B - the smell of fresh fries filled the air and his only customers were a few hikers that were passing through.
So where would this elusive Potato Eater take his shack to next? Selling fries in a place that was even more uninhabited, even more left of centre - Antarctica.
We spoke to this ambitious artist and asked him a few questions about how on earth is he going to manage his Antarctic expedition and more importantly, can you actually cook fries in -30°C?
Arjen, French Fries? Antarctica? Why?
Potatoes represent the main crop production in the north of Holland and French fries are such a popular Dutch-Belgian food. When I did the second place, the uninhabited part of Terschelling, where people had to walk more than an hour to get some fries while being surrounded by pure nature with birds and seals, this is where the idea was born - look for somewhere even more uninhabited to take my shack. I really want to create that smell of freshly cooked French fries in the cold and crisp Antarctic air. Me, alone, standing there looking from behind the counter, there is something striking about it all.
Will you even be able to cook fries in such cold temperatures?
I will be using a kerosene burner and olive oil within my shack. I am not sure what deep-frying in Antarctic temperatures will do to the potato, but I want to discover. I will hopefully prepare and peel my potatoes before the trip so all I will have to do is make them when there.
Who will you serve and how much are you charging?
Maybe scientists, but I know to expect no customers. If I will have a customer, I will be so eager, so I will serve them for free.
How are you preparing for the trip?
The project began in 2016. I did some preparations to the shack so I would be able to transport it onto a ship and on the ice. As the potato maker, I have been preparing myself for the cold, by training in ice water baths, breathing session, and meditation. I am also talking with different organisations to support the project and idea and I have received a lot of attention because of this. Almost everyone has something to say about a fry shack on Antarctica.
What are your biggest challenges?
I don’t know how long I will be staying; I have to investigate the possibilities. There are strict laws to be on Antarctica and getting a license is part of that quest. I hope to have a very small team with me and right now money, travel and making sure I can have the best visual opportunities are my challenges.
Could there be a place among the glaciers for crispy spuds? We can't wait to find out.
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