THE BUTCHER’S BILLSeptember 8, 2013
0600 Breakfast: Cranberry French toast with cinnamon apple topping, and berry smoothies.
A-Watch has the deck and the rest of the boat is asleep. I am making breakfast for eighteen souls, and later, lunch followed by dinner. Even though I am not a morning person, I enjoy this time of day, before watch change, before the boat is properly awake. Of course, the boat is always awake, I am just here to wake up and feed her human machinery.
Make coffee. Fill carafe. Boil water. Fill other carafe. Set out plates and cutlery. Pull everything I think I might out of the reefer and cool storage. Forgot the milk. Pull everything off the counter top and open the reefer again. One crew member can only tolerate limited egg consumption. Do the math on the eggs per serving of French toast (.66 egg per serving). Should be okay. Fire up the propane stove. Draft keeps quenching front right burner. Go to deck and close hatch. Re-light burner. Chop apples. Mix batter. Is the second pot of coffee ready yet? Where is my coffee mug? Running out of time. Scratch apple topping. Whip up some scrambled eggs. Rations: three pieces of French toast, 2 sausages, and no limits on eggs.
Most of the boat cooks I have spoken with work on a breakfast rotation. I am no different. I try to mix it up every day. Muffins. Pancakes. Porridge. Oatmeal. Eggs. Bacon. Sausage. Smoothies. Mix and repeat. I do not serve cereal. It doesn’t pack to punch the crew needs. Cold cereal is served on my days off. From time to time, I find a deal at the grocery store with half-off on day-old baked goods and this week I was able to serve mini pain-au-chocolates. Still, nothing beats a muffin right out of the oven.
Coffee: 48lbs brewed. Eggs served: 1150 +. Muffins baked: 725+ Bacon cooked: incalculable.
1130 and 1200. Lunch: Roasted chicken cobbler. Industrial size.
When I signed aboard in Chicago, there was 40 lbs of both ground chuck and bone-in chicken breast in the freezer. Too much of either quantity to fully utilize and it was hogging too much real estate in the cold storage. I sold some of it, and traded most of these items with other galley cooks: some for the use of a La Cresuet stock pot for the rest of the season, fresh herbs I could not regularly find or afford to buy, three bottles of a chili paste the crew really likes, 5lbs of finely milled flour, 2 lbs of French butter, a basket of fresh fruit and berries, and the largest bottle of pure maple syrup I have ever seen. Good trades.
I have to remember to check with the captain on the expected sailing conditions. I am working with a shallow pan and if we are carrying a lot of sail, we can heel pretty hard under the right wind. Anyone will tell you that Pride of Baltimore II with her sails set and making 9 knots is recipe for a beautiful afternoon, but any cook will tell you what makes for great sailing above deck can easily make for abject misery down below. Wind changes and wind gusts are not uncommon on the lakes, the crew forgets to tell me we are tacking, and squalls arise unexpectedly. What is “smooth sailing” down below quickly becomes an emergency when boiling water, hot oil, and loose knives are in play. Out come the fiddles for the counter and stovetop securing pots and pans in place, and anti-skid mats for everything in between. I have been attacked – three times – by the dish rack alone. Some meals, under those conditions, leave you physically and mentally exhausted. Not sure if this was a self-fulfilling prophesy, but lunch prep was horrible today so the sailing must have been really great.
Bulk items purchased: 50lbs brown sugar, 75 lbs chicken breast, 50lbs all purpose flour, 40lbs butter, 5 lbs dried cranberries, 5 lbs dried blueberries, 30 lbs, wild rice. 20 lbs mixed nuts, 5 gallons of vegetable oil.
1930 and 2000. Dinner: Braised lamb shanks red wine and lentils.
A cook spends a lot of time thinking about time. Thinking about proportions. Thinking about leftovers. Leftovers are never as easy as anyone thinks simply due to the fact that you rarely have enough left to feed the entire crew and thus requires a way to incorporate in a new way into a new dish. Oatmeal is the easiest: pancakes and muffins. But four servings of pasta is turned into what? Pull out the smartphone and consult some websites. I am thankful for the plethora of cooking websites. Simply search for “left over pasta” and I instantly have thousands of recipes telling me what I may consider doing with it. Of course, this only works when there is cell reception.
Dinner today is original, and lamb shanks have become an inside joke amongst the crew this season. When you have $7 a day to feed each body aboard, you buy a lot of bulk items, and lamb is something of a luxury. However, I was able to strike a deal with a local butcher who visited the boat and wanted to do something special for us. This type of generosity happens occasionally, mostly in the form of gift baskets from the port at hand bearing local goodies and snacks. Rarely does such generosity come in the form of lamb. The crew will be grateful and it will be a nice send-off dinner for the most of the crew signing off in Erie. Still, I have to measure and put aside a quantity to create the same dish only meat free for the single vegetarian aboard. Twelve lamb shanks in our small stove will require some maneuvering and is a serious time commitment. I budget four hours at least. Enough time for a shower while the lamb is braising. I anticipate no leftovers.
I am also hoping I can whip up some fresh cookies for dessert. There is some buttermilk I need to use and too much butter hogging space in the cold storage. No hand mixers or food processors aboard the boat, so five-dozen cookies stirred by hand makes for sore mitts in the morning. While I am often privy to personal problems on the boat, I can do nothing to fix them except to listen and make someone’s favorite cookie when they are having a tough day. I’ve made a lot of cookies. But it is an act of love. Love for the crew, love for the sailing, love for the camaraderie, and love for the boat
Pride of Baltimore II has been my home for most of this summer. This is a new experience for me. And it is nice to think of her that way, as a home rather than my husband’s, Captain Trost’s, “other wife”. I know this galley and main salon better than I know my kitchen at home. After nearly eight weeks aboard this season, I know her quirks and her secrets, and soon I will be sharing that with the new cook who signs aboard in Erie, PA to help take the boat home to Baltimore.
Spicy dark chocolate cookies. A particular crew member’s favorite and she is definitely having a tough day. But I can only just manage it if I start now because soon the lamb will monopolize my time and the stove until well into the evening. Back to work.
Cookies baked: 1,100+
Former and Hopefully Future-Interim-Cook
Pride of Baltimore II