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Race to the South Pole

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  • The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen by Stephen Bown book cover

Idea Exchange | January 2, 2013

2011 was the 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s successful expedition to the South Pole.  More practical than his British counterparts, Shackleton and the tragic Robert Scott, Amundsen also made the correct choices.  He chose dogs instead of horses for transport, trained on cross-country skiis instead of relying on simply walking, and used more caches of food. 

Amundsen knew that it would be a test of survival, and made it clear from the outset that if expedition animals needed to be used as food, then so be it.  Amundsen’s careful planning and foresight gained him the prize and fame for himself and for Norway.

Times have changed since then:  Antarctica isn’t exactly a tourist trap, but it is certainly a destination for adventurous travelers.  There are now popular guidebooks to Antarctica and its wildlife.  Global warming is changing all the continents, and the new Gallery art display, Tidal Mass, was inspired by the melting polar ice caps. Idea Exchange has many books about the subject.

So, from a warm and cozy spot, remember Amundsen’s wintry triumph and celebrate with a slice of cake made from this authentic Amundsen family fruitcake recipe.

Amundsen Fruitcake Recipe

Note: This recipe was given to us by Niels Nielsen, who received it from his relative, Gudny Amundsen, a chemical engineer and a laboratory manager at Tønsberg Brewery.  Gudny was born in Norway in 1915 and was given this recipe by her grandmother, Karen Thorstensen from Kongsvinger, who married Olaf Amundsen (born December 18, 1857).  Olaf was the son of skipper Amund Amundsen, who was the brother of Jens Amundsen, Roald’s father.

Step 1

Cut into small pieces and stir together:

  • 300 g figs
  • 300 g dates
  • 300 g raisins
  • 300 g candied cherries

Put ingredients into a bowl and pour in half a bottle of Madeira wine to soak the fruit.  A trusted member of the household should cover the bowl.  Leave for two days.  The trusted member of the family should stir the mixture and add a little extra Madeira if the mixture looks dry.

Step 2

Mix until white as snow:

  • 5 eggs
  • 300 g sugar

Then stir in: 300 g fine white flour and add the fruit mixture

Pour into a well-greased cake form and bake at 150-160° C (300-325° F) for one to one and a half hours.

Cool.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  When ready to serve, decorate with holly.