WRITTEN BY CATHERINE M. ALLCHIN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY GREG GILBERT
With planning and a few pouches from home,
food can be a breeze at sea
On the boat, Luann Renfrow makes waffles from a mix, but prepares things such as sauces at home to keep meals interesting.
ONE OF MY favorite things is to wake up on a boat that's on anchor and make myself a cup of strong coffee. On the chilly, dew-covered stern, I drink in the warmth and embrace the still, salty morning surrounding me.
On one such morning some time ago, my husband and I had just finished eating pancakes and bacon on the back of our SeaRay power boat. I sighed a satisfied sigh and gazed around the placid Liberty Bay. Suddenly I noticed that we were only a couple of feet from land. The day before when we had anchored near Poulsbo, it seemed we were in the middle of the large bay, surrounded by water.
"Look how close we are to shore!" I shouted to my husband. We grabbed our 5-foot aluminum boat hook and put it straight down into the water. It hit bottom way too soon. We barely had enough water to start the engines and find a deeper spot. Lesson learned. You should never get so caught up in the food that you forget about the tides. Breakfast was good, but not worth getting beached for.
Makes 1 loaf
1 ½ cups fresh seawater, warmed
1 package dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm seawater. Add the flour a little at a time. Mix and knead the dough well.
2. Place the dough in a greased pan and allow to rise in a warm place (in the sun) covered for about 1 hour.
3. Pound down the dough and knead again; shape into a loaf for a casserole or loaf dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.
Notes: If you use part whole-wheat flour, use a maximum of 1 to 1 ½ cups and bake a few minutes longer. In any case, this bread is best when eaten warm.
From the Seattle Yacht Club cookbook, "Extraordinary Cuisine for Sea & Shore"
Most boaters do consider eating to be sacrosanct. Food just seems to taste better outside. Boaters, on small sailboats or large power boats, look forward to the next meal with an unusual obsession. This deep interest in eating puts more pressure on the cook to perform. Whether you have an alcohol stove and a cooler or a full galley with oven and microwave, cooking afloat poses some serious challenges. Consider the tiny spaces, unreliable power sources, lack of pure drinking water and dearth of stores in many waters. It seems like an impossible task, given these conditions, to come up with a great gourmet meal.
But if you're a good cook on land, there's no reason you can't be on water. In fact, some people say they're more productive in a kitchen that has fewer options. Necessity is the mother of all invention.
In her book, "Cruising Cuisine," Kay Pastorius argues that fine food afloat is not an oxymoron. She stresses the importance of planning and being well-organized. She prepares ingredients ahead of time and stores them in Ziploc bags arranged by recipe. To prolong the life of vegetables, she wraps them in newspaper and puts them in the refrigerator. Pastorius, who insists on gourmet cuisine in her galley, keeps homemade pesto for months in the fridge and finds that ginger root will stay good for years in a container of dry sherry.
Locally, a group from the Seattle Yacht Club many years ago put together a collection of their favorite maritime recipes and published a cookbook called "Extraordinary Cuisine for Sea & Shore" (Peanut Butter Publishing, $12.95). In it are not only directions for cleaning and preparing the catch of the day, but also recipes for long cruises when grocery stores are few and far between. Galley Stew, for example, humorously calls for four overripe tomatoes and two stalks of wilted celery. Then there's Sea Bread, made with real sea water. The author of that recipe says "to make sure you have the purest, freshest seawater, ask the helmsman to stop the boat in the middle of the sound, strait or ocean. The bigger the production, the more anxious and eager the crew will be to taste your bread."
For weekend trips, it's relatively easy to keep food fresh, but for longer trips it's more complicated. Some tips from the yacht club experts are to make dressings and sauces in advance, prepare dishes at home and freeze them, use canned items, catch fish and shellfish to eat, and stash away some time-savers such as Bisquick, taco mix and Old Bay seasoning.
Luann Renfrow of Seattle has discovered some of the same tricks in the few months that she and partner Mark Spangler have owned their 47-foot Bayliner, called Battery Powered. Before a long trip, she prepares sauces, soups and cookies at home and freezes two servings in Ziploc bags that can be easily microwaved on the boat.
Storing things in small containers is a must. "You need to think of what you automatically reach for at home," Renfrow says. "You take things for granted, like olive oil and different vinegars." As a backup, the couple stocks a few canned and dried ingredients such as waffle mix and syrup, frozen bread, canned soups, spiral-cut ham and specialty cheeses and crackers. One of their favorite treats is McCrea Cellars Syrah with Fran's Dark Chocolate Truffles — not too bad for roughing it on Puget Sound.
Just remember to watch the tide.
Catherine M. Allchin is a Seattle free-lance writer. Greg Gilbert is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
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