April 23, 2009

Cooking under way

THE NEW KID on the block came back from a weekend cruise in the islands with a burning question: how do you cook under way? He has a 26-foot sailboat, with an alcohol-fueled double-burner stove, but no gimbals. One chilly day, he had to beat for eight hours in heavy winds and a contrary current. “I could have killed for a hot cup of soup,” he said, “but we couldn’t keep anything on the stove with any degree of safety.”

Most small sailboats don’t have swinging room for a properly gimbaled stove, of course, so cooking is limited to calm water in anchorages. And even there it’s possible to have a nasty accident when an unthinking powerboater comes past dragging a huge wake.

The answer to this dilemma is to invest in one of those single-burner stoves in gimbals that fastens to a bulkhead. You might find it difficult to find one of the original Sea Swing stoves, the aluminum ones that had a place for a kerosene Primus stove to hang underneath, but you can still buy a new Seacook made by Kuuma/Force10.

The Seacooks use the ubiquituous 16.4-ounce propane canisters and stow out of the way until you fit them to a low-profile bulkhead mount. They’ll take a 7-inch-diameter cooking pot. Forespar makes a similar Mini Galley 2000 stove, and both will give you about 3 1/2 hours of very convenient cooking at full blast.

These swinging single-burners are very welcome aboard small ocean cruising yachts, of course, but the cook will need either lessons in one-pot cooking or a large stock of those ready-to-eat entrées that need only be immersed in boiling water.

Meanwhile, here’s a simple, classic, one-pot recipe for onion soup. It came from British naval Commander E. G. Martin whose soup was the object of frequent praise aboard his famous cutter, Jolie Brise, which won the first Fastnet Race in 1925:

“Place four medium-large onions, peeled and cut into quarters, into a covered saucepan with 3 to 4 cups cold water. Add 2 tablespoons Bovril (or other strong beef stock) 4 ounces butter, a dessertspoonful of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, a little black pepper, and (when the cooking is nearly done) a small glass of sherry or rather more white wine. Boil gently for 30 minutes or until the onions have fallen to pieces and are soft, stirring occasionally.”

This recipe makes enough for four to six people but it may be rather too glutinous for modern arteries, so I reduce the butter to 2 ounces and substitute 5 beef stock (bouillon) cubes for the Bovril. It’s still delicious and highly comforting on a cold stormy day.

►Sea Swing stoves: Check Craig’s list or eBay for used models. Google “Classic Camp Stoves” for a forum on traditional old stoves and spare parts.
►Kuuma/Force 10 Seacook stoves and Forespar Mini Galley 2000 stoves: Google for list of current suppliers and prices.

Today’s Thought
I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.
—Jean Marie Amat

“Doctor is it true that if you never drink, smoke, or run around after women, you’ll live longer?”
“I’m afraid we’ll never know until someone tries it.”

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