I love cooking. In particular, I love trying new recipes with ingredients I can’t pronounce, and I love baking breads. There aren’t many things that thrill me more than seeing any of our 11 children’s faces light up when I set a tray of fresh warm cinnamon rolls on the counter, or when my husband comments on the mouth-watering aroma coming from the galley.
I have to admit that when we moved onto our boat, a Leopard 46 catamaran, I was a little intimidated about my cooking situation. I was downsizing from double ovens, a six burner stove, and endless storage and counter space, to an oven that barely fits a 9 x13 pan and a tiny, three-place propane stove.
We started out in Panama, and for the first couple of months our meals were very simple with lots of fruit and vegetables and tortillas filled with beans, rice, and sometimes meat. After cruising for a few more months, I have reached a point of feeling quite at home in my little galley, and have come to realize that I can do anything here that I could do in the large kitchen I had on land. Plus, now I always have a new exquisite view out the windows as I cook.
Since we like to avoid marinas and try to live off the grid as much as possible, I’ve learned a few things that make my life easier. I keep a good stock of staples on board, and staples are different for different families. Ours are items like rice, flour, sugar, butter, milk, beans, canned tomatoes, oil, and spices. One of the fun things about travelling is exploring the markets in each new place and learning to cook what the locals eat. In Panama I learned how to cook yucca and plantains, and they are now some of our family favorites. In Mexico I asked some of the locals to teach me how to cook their favorite meal. We went to the grocery store together where they showed me what to buy, and we spent an entire afternoon cooking a feast of refried beans, Mexican rice, carne asada, cerdo, and salsa. Shortly before we served dinner, they ran over to the tortilla factory and brought back several dozen warm, fluffy, fresh tortillas. It was definitely a major hit with our family and friends, and I am now lucky enough to know some sweet little secrets on cooking authentic Mexican food.
With baking stones in the oven, breads, rolls, pizzas, and cakes cook quicker and more evenly. Adding a pan of water to the bottom helps, too. I usually bake when it’s cooler in the mornings or in the evenings so I don’t heat the boat up even more in the hottest part of the day. Often, rather than bread loaves I’ll bake dinner rolls, because they cook quicker and they are easy to grab and eat with cheese, etc. if we are on the go. If I make salads like pasta, potato, beet, or quinoa I’ll cook the night before, let it cool overnight, and finish preparing the salad the next morning. To save on freezer space I buy 20 pounds of chicken at a time, cook it at night, and when it’s cooled take the meat off the bone, divide it up, and freeze it in freezer bags for easy use. I also buy hamburger in large quantities and divide it up and freeze it.
One of our best investments has been a grill for the stern. It keeps the heat of cooking outside, as well as the smell of food, especially if you’re grilling fish or are underway and have a seasick sailor on board.
Lastly, I try to vary our menu as much as possible by not preparing the same meal very often. We do catch a lot of fish but I’m learning many fish recipes, and try to vary what I serve it with.
I hope there are others out there that have as much fun in the galley as I do and who find it as rewarding as I do… after all, crew with bellies full of yummy food are happy crew, and that’s a wonderful thing!
Written by Belinda Govatos.