There’s nothing like the wind in your hair and saltwater spray on your face to help build up an appetite!
At the same time, food preparation aboard a sailing vessel presents a unique set of challenges. Water, fuel, refrigeration and preparation time may be in short supply; stove burners, counter space and storage are generally limited. There may be many miles of rolling waves between you and a produce market. As the boat lurches, chopping can be a daunting task and any open cupboard or oven door is likely to swing wildly back and forth. Nonetheless, the galley is one of my favorite spots on a boat, and one’s culinary creations are certain to be met with great enthusiasm by the rest of the crew.
Staples for the healthful meals on the high seas include the faster cooking grains (such as quinoa, white rice, millet, and couscous, all ready in 15 to 20 minutes) and the smaller, faster cooking legumes (lentils, split peas, mung beans, adzuki beans, all ready in about 45 minutes. Red lentils are fastest of all, at 20 minutes. As canned goods are often kept in bins that open from the top, to quickly distinguish the contents, write their identities on the tops with a marking pen. Tofu in tetrapacks can be mashed and seasoned for sandwich fillings, or cubed and marinated for stir-fries. Peanut butter is not only a spread, but can be the basis for delicious sauces, as in the African Stew recipe below.
You’ll likely become very creative with whatever herbs and spices you have at hand. Take small packages of curry, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, chili, dried garlic, onion, and ginger. Exotic vinegars, toasted sesame oil, nutritional yeast, hot sauces, and curry pastes (such as Patak’s mild) keep well without refrigeration and add a nice touch to simple dishes. Vegetable stock powder or cubes allow you to turn out flavorful soups and stews with few ingredients. During preparation, non-slip mats, available at boating stores, keep your cutting board or bowl in place on the counter.
It helps to know half a dozen quick and easy menu items. (Campers and kayakers also take note of these ideas!) Couscous salads are ideal. You simply add boiling water, a few seasonings (such as cumin, salt and pepper) and let the couscous sit for about 15 minutes while you chop or grate colorful veggies (such as red pepper and parsley) to mix in, perhaps along with currants and a lemon-tahini dressing. For an entire meal, add a can of drained chick peas.
When you’re at sea for a while, sprouting may be an easy way to get fresh veggies. A fine mesh bag can be hung up, allowing twice-daily rinsing while the sprouts grow. Keep alfalfa seeds, mung beans and regular green or brown or French (small) lentils for this purpose.
For instant snacks, trail mixes are sure to be well received. Make your own blend of dried fruit (figs, dates, currants, cranberries, cherries, raisins, mango); nuts (with almonds for calcium, cashews for zinc, walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids, and the occasional Brazil nut for selenium); and perhaps chocolate or carob chips or candied ginger.
From Becoming Vegetarian by Melina and Davis, 2003.
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cups water or vegetable stock from cubes or powder
2 cups peeled, diced yams or sweet potatoes
1-2 cups canned, drained chick-peas
1 cup brown or white rice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups chopped kale, collards, or other greens
2 tbsp lemon juice
dash chili sauce, chipotle sauce or Tabasco
In large pot, sauté onion in oil over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add water, yams, chick-peas, rice, salt and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes (use the longer time for brown rice). In small bowl, blend peanut butter and 1/2 cup of hot liquid from stew to make a smooth paste. Stir into stew along with greens and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, chili sauce and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with rice or bread.
Makes 4 small or 2 hearty servings.
Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian and author based near Fort Langley. She is co-author of the Food Allergy Survival Guide, Cooking Vegetarian, The New Becoming Vegetarian (US title), “Becoming Vegetarian” (Canadian title for the same book), Becoming Vegan, and Raising Vegetarian Children. For personal consultations call 604-888-8325 (clinic) or 604-882-6782 (home office); web www.nutrispeak.com.