I am sitting in the cockpit, gently bobbing in the ocean, eating a breakfast of boat-made toasted muesli and yoghurt topped with chopped papaya, bought the other day from a small boat full of fresh produce that pulled up alongside Tangaroa whilst at anchor in the Blue Lagoon (yes, THE blue lagoon from the eighties movie starring Brooke Shields) and I think about ‘boat food’. What kind of thoughts spring to mind when you think of ‘boat food’?
A few weeks back I was chatting to a non-yachtie holiday maker and he asked me what kind of food we eat on the boat and then proceeded to answer his own question by suggesting that we probably eat lots of pasta, rice and tinned veg. After 5 months of living aboard eating good food I had forgotten my preconceived ideas about what it would be like to cook and eat aboard a cruising vessel, with a big fridge, no freezer and unable to just nip out to a local shop to buy a missing ingredient. On board I make chai masala tea and curries from the raw spices, indian chutney, naan bread, raisin and cinnamon bread, herb bread, yoghurt and muesli all from scratch. I’ve surprised myself with the variety of tasty fish meals that I can knock up with the fish that we catch whilst trawling and spear fishing. I’ve cooked with breadfruit, plantains, jack fruit, green papaya, cassava and okra. How could I walk past the colourful, aromatic spices and fresh produce at the markets without being inspired to turn them into something delicious? To me, one of the fundamental parts of any adventure is great tasting food and I am very happy to report that we are not living off baked beans and boiled rice, although a meal of plain pasta without vegetables would unfortunately be perceived as a real treat by the girls!
Considering I was a newbie to boat provisioning I am generally happy with our supplies. I’m not one to make meal plans so I was a bit daunted at the prospect of having to fill up a boat with sufficient quantities of inspiring ingredients to make healthy meals for the coming months. I knew that I did need some kind of plan, so I came up with a rough and ready method for calculating the amounts of each food item that I should be buying. We sailed for 2 weeks up the north-east coast of New Zealand and I simply scaled up the amount of each food that we consumed during this trip to suffice for about 4 months. All shopping had to be carried by foot from the supermarket to the marina, along the pontoons, across another boat that we were rafted next to and on to Tangaroa, meaning that sometimes due to weight &/or volume we could only tick off less than half a dozen different items from the long list during one supermarket expedition. It felt pretty crazy going through the supermarket checkout with 22kg of powdered milk, 8kg of cheese, 3kg of butter, 16 jars of pesto and 5 bulk packs of toilet rolls! The provisions that I am extremely happy to have a good supply of include jars of pesto, olives, capers, vegetable stock cubes, almonds, cashew nuts and raisins. If I were to do this again I would buy more good cheeses (dairy is available but very expensive in Fiji and Tonga), mayonaise (this is available in Fiji but we haven’t managed to find any decent tasting ones, Tonga had some OK looking jars but we still had NZ supplies then) and I would not stock up on dried pulses (there are so many varieties of cheap pulses available in Fiji). Oh, and I almost forgot to mention my favourite ‘essential’ that I am still very pleased to have stocks of, dark chocolate. I have not seen a single block of dark chocolate in Fiji. We bought some rather yummy Indonesian made choccie bars in Tonga and some scrummy choc mint biscuits in Fiji, but I do enjoy sneaking a couple of cubes of dark chocolate out of the fridge from time to time when none of the girls are in range!
I’m sure that ‘boat food’ will conjure up a whole range of thoughts and memories for different people, very dependent on the boat and the time, but for me right now on Tangaroa ‘boat food’ = good food. Today’s bread is in the oven and the yoghurt is being cultured, I thinks it’s time to brew up a chai masala and think about the culinary delights that we can create on Tangaroa today, amidst the fun of sailing, snorkelling and swimming.