the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Monday, February 4, 2013

you cook on your boat?

In a surprised tone, my current neighbor asked me that question yesterday. Uh, yeah; of course! I've got a propane stove and oven, though I haven't used the oven yet. The current neighbor is a guy crashing for a couple months on his friend's boat in the slip next to me. He picked the coldest two months to live aboard and from what I've heard is not loving it. Not long after he moved aboard I ran into him on the snow-covered dock; he looked at me skeptically and said "you do this all the time?" Uh, yeah, this is my home, I live here.

But back to cooking... not having the propane hooked up my first three months aboard was what made me feel like I was camping. I am used to cooking up huge meals and filling my freezer with lunch and dinner portions. I regularly bartered with meals and baked goods for pet-sitting, drinks, massages, hair cuts, and concert tickets. Last spring I briefly made myself nuts selling baked goods at a local farmer's market. The oven aboard is small, so I may have to focus on cookies, muffins, bundt cake, and biscuits, and let go my popular three-layer red velvet and piƱa colada cakes. (Anyone want to trade boat-repair assistance or sailing lessons for yummy baked goods or delicious meals?)

A few days ago I spoiled myself with quinoa smothered with braised chicken and a side dish of yukon gold potatoes, zucchini, and onion seasoned with garlic and paprika and topped with crumbled feta. Everything turned out delicious and, as I did not have any dinner guests, I managed to tuck several containers in the fridge and ate well, healthy, and affordably for several days.

Cooking aboard does present certain challenges. Chief among them is the steam generated inside the boat and resulting condensation. When I use my Fagor pressure cooker I aim the steam toward the hatch and crack it open so most of the steam quickly vents outside. The pressure cooker has already been used for three batches of pinto beans; the other liveaboards at socials tear through the bean dip I bring so it's nice to know I have a standby dish they like; it only takes 40 minutes under pressure to cook the beans, but I do have to remember to soak the beans overnight. I'll need to get some Arborio rice because the pressure cooker lets me make amazing risotto without having to stand and constantly stir for forty-five minutes.

I am very lucky that my boat has an impressive amount of storage space for its size. I plan to bring the rest of my cookware aboard this week so that I can really get cooking. I joke that I have every kitchen gadget known to man...I even have a little blowtorch for carmelizing sugar on creme brulee. Now I look at all the gadgets at Sur La Table or Bed Bath & Beyond and think what a silly waste of space and money most are. Before I owned a cheese grater I used to just dice the cheese so it would melt... it works, and on a boat with limited water for dish washing and limited space for gadgets, cheese graters are just a hassle of nooks and crannies to clean. Do people really need separate gadgets for dealing with every different fruit or vegetable? A few good knives, a few good pots, and a cutting board are really all we need... well, creativity helps!

So, here I am philosophizing on food. I love food and love to cook. Kneading dough and baking cakes and cookies are meditative for me. I am a "true believer" that breaking bread is a universal ritual that brings us together as human beings. But I am adamantly not a foodie. Food snobs are the worst thing that can happen to a good meal. (Sorry, correction: they are the second-worst thing; a date is the number one way to ruin a good meal.) If I discover a guy is a chef I run for the hills; the last thing I want to hear some guy blather on about is a balsamic-something-or-other reduction. Or the "crumb" of a bread. The floppy-haired sailor guy was a Grade-A food snob and enjoyed criticizing my scratch pizza dough, which he never tried, although several people have proclaimed my pizza the best they have ever had. (What can I say; I was annoyed but temporarily blinded by love and tried to see the upside that we both feel passionately about dough.)

Whether a dish is "comfort food" or haute cuisine, if it tries to intimidate or impress rather than comfort, then I don't want it. I like having friends who love food and cooking, are good cooks, and enjoy having potlucks and cook-outs. Sometimes the food is classic comfort food and other times more complicated or fancy-schmancy, but always infused with friendship, love, and generosity. If your cooking lacks those ingredients, it will never feed the soul.


  1. If we bring the arborio rice, would you show us how you make risotto in the pressure cooker? Sounds spectacular!!

  2. Absolutely! Vegetable stock and white wine for the liquid, and a generous dose of fresh-grated Parmesan make for a creamy, zesty feast.


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