September 23, 2014

Will Sail for Food


Shortly after we dropped anchor I saw a shrimp trawler pull in. We’d been waiting for this moment. Ever since cruising friends gave us a tip: go with a bucket, they told us, and $20 in small bills. Then after shooting the breeze for a bit—it’s lonely being a fisherman on the remote Queensland coast—ask how much shrimp your money will buy. $5 bought us a generous kilo of enormous prawns. We could have had more—but our fridge was too small for the pre-measured packages that were flash frozen as soon as they were caught.

Maia is becoming a great bread baker
A drinking coconut
And the kilo would be perfect for a celebratory meal at to top of Australia (which coincided with our anniversary). The menu: prawns, risotto Milanese and sautéed broccoli followed by chocolate mousse. Not bad for a meal that came on a trip with a month between grocery stores.

I recall visiting maritime museums as a kid. It was always the food that was displayed in the galley’s of old sailing ships that fascinated and appalled me; tins of butter, potted meat, ships biscuits. Everything was serviceable and simple—as though food was fuel and not sustenance.

Twenty years ago, as we prepared to sail off on little Ceilydh, the books I read that told me how to outfit my galley seemed to take a page from those old ships. They offered up undemanding recipes made from bland ingredients, potted meat, it seemed was universal. Serve it over potatoes (powdered or tinned were both acceptable options) with tinned peas; you could finish with cling peaches or fruit cocktail for dessert. If you wanted to be fancy (or change it up) add curry powder or an onion.

Dutifully I bought a case of canned ham (I couldn’t bring my self to buy spam). We ate one and decided there had to be a better way.
the food should match the extraordinary journey
There are two types of thought when it comes filling the pantry of modern cruising boats: 
1) Food is everywhere, because everyone eats. So don’t over shop.
2) Buy everything you can before you leave because not everyone eats what you want to eat.

Food is everywhere. But often we look for it in the wrong places. The dusty grocery store in Seisia, where green beans cost $12 a kilo and we’ll buy them anyway—because over a lifetime of eating green beans they probably only bring up the overall cost by a fraction, isn’t what we’ll remember when we think about food on this coast. Nor will it be the well-stocked grocery stores in Cairns and Airlie beach.

Percy Island fruit became gorgeous marmalade
What we’ll recall are the foods we’ve stumbled across—the fruit that was piled into my arms by Kate, a homesteader on Middle Percy Island, the coconuts Maia climbed for, the fish given to us by friends on Arjenta, the bush tomato relish we found in Cairns, and those prawns. We sail to experience the riches of the world around us; to find the flavours and textures of each new place. 
We’ll leave the potted meat for someone else.

1 comment:

Julia Weeks said...

448We have a lot of canned tuna and salmon, which isn't too bad with the recipes we fix (tuna tacos, salmon quesadillas, tuna enchiladas, etc). However, we have found that right now, we are somewhere at least every other day where we have access to fresh veggies, fruits, and meats / fish. We also have a very small freezer in our marine fridge which has worked out great for keeping fish and meats a little longer.