I have been spending a fair amount of time this week in front of my laptop writing a couple articles about provisioning and cooking on board. While researching what has already been published (in the hopes that I might have something new to say, HA!) I keep stumbling across this notion of “boat food”. That idea that just because you live on a sailboat and have a small galley you need to drastically change the way you cook and what you eat.
There is, in fact, quite a niche market for “galley cookbooks”, ones that implore that “boat cooking IS different than cooking ashore” because “there’s no grocery store 5 minutes away, you have fewer prepared foods and electric appliances.” And others that recommend that you eat off “paper cups and plates, particularly at sea.” Both to save washing up (you can just toss them overboard, of course) and because plastic plates “scratch and become dull.”
I mean REALLY?!
I admit that working in the confines of a small sailboat galley does take a little getting use to. The stove is small, but not that much bigger than a couple of the “apartment sized” models I’ve used. Some galley’s don’t have an oven. I have one that throws so much heat into the cabin you might as well just crawl in beside what ever you’re trying to bake in it. When you first move on board it’s a lot like moving into a new apartment; you have to make friends with the equipment, figure out all it’s quirks and nuances and how to work around them.
Counter space is limited, cupboards are too. So maybe you can’t buy a special Loch Ness monster shaped soup ladle or cutesy premium vegetable spiralizer because they don’t fit in the micro sized drawers and threaten to become deadly projectiles if you leave them in a container on the counter at sea. But lets face it, they are gadgets, no one NEEDS to buy them. Somehow we’ve managed to cook and eat without them, and electrical appliances, until very recently. (And yes, you can buy a Loch Ness monster soup ladle and spiralize vegetables, whatever that means. Google it.)
Food storage space is usually pretty small too, and filling it with familiar items is not always easy because not everything you can buy at home is available in the rest of the world. So you have to think ahead, or substitute, or make your own. Sometimes you just have to do without; maybe something we should all do more of.
And how can someone who lives on a boat, where you are literally in touch with your environment every single day, even suggest paper plates? Who cares if plastic plates eventually get scratched, you can’t taste the scratches! Why don’t you spend a dollar more and buy good old melamine plates, or stop cutting your food up with a serrated steak knife, or better yet choose to use wooden, steel or *gasp* real crockery.
Maybe I was born to live on a sailboat, or maybe Kate’s galley is an anomaly, but I haven’t changed my cooking or eating style that much since moving on board. I admit that growing up in a family that cooked and ate together gave me a good base to start from. But people around the world have been, and continue to, cook food in kitchens that make the modern sailboat galley* look both high-tech and spacious. And that food is delicious and healthy and beautiful! Probably some of the best I have ever eaten. And most of the time it was served to me on a scratched plastic plate.
* I use that term loosely as Kate is 42 years old this year.
I think everyone should learn to cook in a small sailboat galley. It teaches you to great organizational and planning skills, both while provisioning and while cooking. It forces you to be creative and to try new things, important qualities to bring to anything you do. It demands that you be frugal with your space, your equipment and your ingredients, but in the best possible less-is-more way. It makes you considerate of the resources that you use and how you impact your environment. At least I hope it does.
But what I really love about cooking in a small sailboat galley is that, if you pay attention, it constantly reminds you that simplicity is beautiful and that great things can come from the most humble beginnings.
If you want me I’ll be in my galley cooking up some “land food”.