September 26, 2013

Propane or charcoal? Neither . . .

 SEVERAL YEARS BACK, when we were cruising up north in beautiful British Columbia, we ran into some people with very strong opinions about how to cook aboard a boat. It made quite an impression on my wife, who has always been our resident expert in gastronavigation. Weeks afterward, when her surprise had still not worn off, she was moved to write about the experience. Here is her piece:

The Non-Perishable Gospel

by June Vigor

THE COCKPIT CONVERSATION aboard Kalira in Westview Harbour was getting passionate.

Propane or charcoal?
That was the question, and the barbecue-fuel debate was becoming (ahem) heated.

We were with a trio of strangers gathered aboard our dock-mate’s boat for sundown beers and Kalira’s fresh-baked rosemary-and-olive bread.

“What do you use?” demanded the hottest defender of charcoal.

“Nothing,” I said. “We don’t barbecue on board.”

Stunned silence. Then, “Why ever not?”

“No room. Our boat is very small. And nothing to barbecue. We don’t have refrigeration.”

There was no more talk about food that night. The conversation jibed abruptly.

Perhaps they were afraid -- those salmon grillers and bread bakers -- that I would mention (gasp!) canned food.

Which I would have. As it happens, we have a deeply rooted, thoroughly examined philosophy about food afloat.

We’re with the Spartans. We’ve never had a galley with an oven or a fridge. We don’t haul ice aboard. Anything that won’t keep at sea temperature in the bilges is left behind.

What’s the point, we say, of going out to get close to nature and taking all the comforts and indulgences of home with you? We like the simplicity of it, the reminder that there are things out there that are far more enriching than barbecued steak. Things that get you much closer to the powerful rewards of real self-sufficiency.

And so we have become very attached to our cans. I make a robust corned beef hash, a fine shrimp stir-fry, and serve up noble cups of lentil soup enhanced with just a pinch of curry powder.

But I find that I don’t get much chance to spread the gospel of nonperishable groceries. As a disciple, I am grossly underheard.

The subject didn’t even come up in Isabel Bay when the folks aboard Whisper gave us tea and homemade scones hot from the oven.

It didn’t surface in the presence of roast beef and all the trimmings served aboard Kwinnum in Chemainus.

Nevertheless, I am not dismayed. Our gospel will surely spread, and I am always prepared to share the joys we find in our simple Spartan ways.

One of which, as you may have noticed, is eating on other people’s boats.

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, Chef, St. James restaurant, Bordeaux, France


The artist’s nude model complained that the studio was too cold.

“You’re right,” said the man. “Let’s warm up over a cup of coffee.”

Some minutes later there was a loud knock at the studio door.

“Quick!” said the artist. “It’s my wife! Get your clothes off.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Edward said...

To eat healthy while at sea. There is the problem. I'm an omnivore(we all are really) and that means Meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. Alas any canned versions of these essentials I have tried have been unsavory at best:(

Sixbears said...

My lovely wife and I are going on a long coastal cruise in about a month. Our boat is tiny. I looked at all kinds of refrigeration options. My lovely wife saved me a world of grief by suggesting we just do without. She is one in a million.

Of course, with the money saved, I'll have to take out out to dinner at those nice dock side restaurants once in a while.

Small price to pay.

Jack said...

As I recall you may of touched on the subject of refrigeration on vessels in the past. I know "North America" has a fixation/passion for chilling down the victuals, specially the beverages.Having lived in Canada for over 20 years, even the beer one would drink in -40c conditions needed to "ice" cold. So returning to my native Blighty, I have after 3 years not really got use to a luke-cold beer passed to me by a ship-mate. I spend a lot of money on ice these days it seems.