Cooking on board: kitchenware and food-stocks on a cruise
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Plainly speaking: I have nothing against restaurants, trattorias, bistrot and taberne scattered over the Mediterranean Sea. And I wouldn’t dream of recommending not to eat there during summer cruise stops. It’s only that, to me, cooking on board – in a roadstead or in a marina – is somehow special and adds enjoyment to sailing.
To be honest, I like to test my culinary skills in the confined spaces of an on board galley and serve small delicacies to my boat mates. And, let me tell you, I’m quite good at that.
I still remember a crossing from Corsica to Ligura more or less 40 years ago on an Alpa 6.50 provided with a tiny kitchen and a small ice-box. The smiling faces of my two mates when I appeared on deck with a good-smelling herb omelette stand out in my mind. I remember how we enjoyed to taste it in the middle of a storm which was leading us to Portovenere (at least this is what appeared to a young boy not very experienced in offshore sailing).
In short, I like cooking during sailing and I enjoy a lot on board social occasions. This is why I am always interested in kitchenware and galley utensils.
Some time ago I wrote an article about food-stocks and racing. Someone could have found it a little extremist as it states alcoholic drinks should be absolutely banned. However, things are quite different when you are cruising and today I am not going to try to persuade you to avoid having some Rum after dinner or a little Prosecco served as an aperitif at sunset. Of course, balance, common sense and some organization are key….but more about that later.
To start with I would like to have a look at the galley and the necessary utensils.
Most of the modern cabin yachts have a linear galley opposite the dinette. This layout is no doubt effective as it enlarges the living space and allows recovering usable space inside the boat. However, there are some cons to consider. The first and the most important is the shortage of work surfaces very useful when the boat heels or is rocking back and forth. On the contrary, the more traditional L- or even U-shaped layouts of less recent boats provide greater comfort and safety for the sailor chef.
It goes without saying that the cooktop is gimbaled and provided with panholders and – almost always – with flame failure devices on each burner. An oven may seem superfluous and yet it is useful to bake pizza and cakes. Gas ignition is standard except in big boats. To this purpose the importance of gas cylinder stowage and proper operation can never be stressed enough.
The layout of my ideal cruiser will necessarily have plenty of work surfaces with integrated sinks and relative cocks. Work surfaces will be provided with handholds and handrails and a safety belt is available to ensure safety. In addition there obviously has to be drainers and tableware-racks.
The fridge is of vital importance. A 100/120-l capacity is enough for the needs of a few days without too much space wasted. Top-loading models are frequent. Front-opening refrigerators are very practical, however less roomy. Also the traditional ice-box can be taken into consideration. Just make sure a sufficient ice supply is available for daily beverages.
Peaks, cupboards and bilges are the places to stow canned food (very useful at least as basic ingredients for your recipes) and beverages. When storing, pay attention to load distribution and place as much weight as possible in the lowest part of the boat.
Basic utensils for cooking are of course necessary. You don’t need all the kitchenware you have at home (as for me it would be really difficult to bring on board all the huge quantity of tools and accessories I use when I kook at home), however very good results can be achieved with a few tips.
Let’s begin from the best of the pots to bring on board: a pressure cooker, very useful in a myriad of recipes. The set will also include a pot for cooking pasta (and its colander), a pair of non-stick pans of different dimensions, a milk pot, a kettle for tea water and a coffee maker (better two of different sizes).
A basic set of kitchen utensils includes a couple of wooden spoons, a ladle, a kitchen knife (pay the utmost attention when using it during navigation!!), a potato peeler and a veg cutter with a grater. Do not forget kitchen scissors, a corkscrew and a bottle opener as well as a can opener.
Tableware consists of dinner plates, soup plates, cutlery and a couple of bowls and similar containers. A couple of oilskin tablecloths, glassware in different shapes and sizes, cups and mugs. Trivets and all those small utensils (potholders, costers, etc.) necessary to complete your basic yet essential kitchen equipment.
Needless to say that disposable plates should not be used. There are valid alternatives in different materials on the market. Use ecological soap to wash tableware. Pasta cooking water may be used to remove grease from dishes, then just rinse them off.
Worthy of careful attention is food-stock management. Based on the scheduled cruise stops in ports, a stock inventory of fresh and preserved food is necessary. The point is that nobody wants to get off every day to go shopping as we do at home at the local supermarket. Food storage is extremely important for a timely use of perishable food while preserved products are spared for navigation days.
Having a precise idea of which products need to be stored in a fridge (among these, of course meat, fish, milk and fresh cheese, some salami and some vegetables) and which can be stored in cool and ventilated places on the boat to avoid spoilage (such as some fruits, dry and aged cheese, eggs) is essential. Knowing some tips is useful to arrange your complete and balanced, rich and varied food-stocks. When stowing, remember the motto “everything in its place” and pay attention to keep everything handy for everyone.
This is the right moment to give room to imagination and enjoy mixing ingredients to interpret the same old dishes. Rice or pasta salads are just an example of boring dishs to be found on all “floating” dining table.
I think the trick is to use ingredients in a little more creative way with various seasonings and different spices (the use of spices reduces the excessive use of salt). Why not to “recycle” fish or chicken dinner leftovers and serve them in sandwiches or as finger food for an aperitif in a bay? Vegetables and steak are more “ethnic” if served with curry and chapati bread, ready in few minutes.
Moreover don’t forget beverages. The minimum quantity of drinking water needed is 2 liters per person per day plus 30% for unexpected events.
As for wine, it’s preferable to bring bottled wine on board. Store bottles in darkness in the coolest place on the boat, usually the bilge, and wrap each bottle in newspaper. Store beer cans and bottled water in a dry place e.g. the peaks under the sofa in the saloon.
With regard to alcoholic drinks worth remembering is that a cruise is – unlike a race – a time of friendship. A couple of beers or a glass of wine help strengthen team spirit and crew harmony. The fact remains that the basic principle to keep in mind is never exaggerate. Not only for safety reasons concerning navigation or walking below or above deck but also to avoid unpleasant situations or quarrels among cruise mates.
So alcoholic drinks are welcomed provided that they are drunk in moderation. In my opinion, never drink when sailing and – why not – following an old saying of the British Navy “never before sunset”.
Well, is everything on board? Ready to set sail? Well, without any hurry. We have long waited for this moment and it’s worth celebrating properly. Let’s open a can of beer, have some chips and olives and take a moment to relax. We’ll leave in half an hour, the sea is over there, always waiting for us.
Fair wind to everybody! See you at sea!
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