With all the hiking, digging, lifting and screening, I found myself a bit sore and with a bit of back strain. So, I decided to stay at camp today and help Rebecca with some work. I also offered my limited open fire cooking abilities to make dinner. Alyesa and Ola, two Russian students have taken on the greatest share of meal preparation and so we decided they would take a break and not have to make dinner. This was received with a big 'oorah!' at breakfast.
After a day in the work tent, Rebecca and I planned a dinner with Italian flair using the ingredients we had spied in the cooking tent. We also commandeered some materials from other parts of camp, hoping they would go unnoticed. The menu included penne a la vodka, roasted potatoes with herbs, garlic toast, peas, and an antipasto tray with kielbasa and eggplant in marinade. Not your average field camp dinner, but then we hadn't spent our entire day out in the field digging and hiking.
Keeping the fire at a constant temperature proved to be the first challenge. To roast the potatoes I acquired a piece of left over screening that was slated for possible repairs and some foil from the work tent. The purpose of the foil was unknown to me and so helping myself to a generous portion of it did not leave me with any guilt whatsoever. I fashioned a cooking tray out of the screening so the foil didn't collapse into the hot coals. All in all, not a bad set up. We mixed a variety of jars and cans of various tomato and vegetable products, herbs that we recognized from pictures on envelopes and other items that we dug around for in the tent. Adding half a bottle of vodka was the crowning touch, and the sauce if we do say so ourselves was fantastic.
Boiling water and making pasta was pretty simple, as was the antipasto plate – there were limited decisions to be made here. A vegetable for us vegetarian types and it was a rather well rounded meal. Rebecca prepared some canned beef into ground beef and browned it to add to the sauce after we had removed our meatless portions.
All of this took the better part of two hours. But, it was very satisfying to put down a meal for twelve people and have teenagers thank us and tell us it was good. In fact, there were no leftovers on any of the prepared foods. It is Russian tradition to have a toast or two at each meal. The first toast went to Rebecca and I for cooking dinner. The second toast was from Rebecca and me to Alyesa and Ola. We had a new appreciation of campfire cooking to be sure.
As for new appreciation, I have gained a new appreciation for artifacts in a museum. After being here in the field for almost two weeks, I have a much deeper appreciation for all of the things I have seen in museums. When I think about how much work it is to bring back one perfect artifact from an excavation site, I realize that many of the hundreds of artifacts I have seen are an investment of countless man-hours of physical work and careful examination and preparation for our benefit. They are truly a treasure for the masses that were provided by a few committed people with a passion for archeology. When we find a really nice piece artifact during a dig, everyone stops and admires it. We all wish we had been the one who found it. And when you are the one who finds the long buried treasure it can lift your spirit and make the digging and screening process all that more satisfying. It's hard to describe how this small contribution to the growing body of science can have an impact on a person but it does so profoundly and almost without a sound.
Although I was disappointed to be held up with a sore back it gave me the opportunity to see one more grand thing, my third sighting of an eruption of Shiveluch Volcano. As I was checking on my drying laundry, I looked up at the landscape, which is so spectacular, and saw the distinct smoke rise that can only signify an eruption. An ordinary moment – transformed. It seems that happens a great deal here. Kamchatka is a force that transforms the human spirit. As Greg reminds me, we are the first to dig here and uncover the mysteries of those who came before us. Our discoveries here at Stolbevaya will be shared with many, but appreciated most by me, because I had the chance to be a part of its wonder.