Saturday, May 27

What dish to pair with wildlife sightings?

Matching the right wine with the right food is the subject of numerous books and esoteric conversations. But what food does one pair with the most amazing wildlife sightings? What wine holds up to drop-dead gorgeous scenery? I’m pretty sure that what the boys over on Sea Gate are eating can’t possibly suffice. Last time I checked they were still working their way through a Costco-sized bag of garlic bagel chips and potato salad. Last night I heard Larry “the last liberal from Texas” Crouch mention pulverizing the bagel chips and crusting some fish with it. I’m thinking that should use up at least 1/18th of the bag.

We’re anchored in Khutze Inlet, B.C., one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege to see my whole life. Buck, Max and I spent as much time as we could watching the view off the bow before we froze to death. It was a complete 360-degree panoramic, each angle more stunning than the next. It felt as if, at any moment, the director would storm by and the scenery would roll past and we would realize we were on a Hollywood back lot. Surely we’re the extras in this movie. The star? That big brown bear eating grass stage left. (Not kidding!) The stunt man? That eagle swooping overhead – apparently there’s no shortage of stuntmen in this region; eagles are the Inside Passage’s local pigeon. The stage crew? Those slick seals popping their heads up all around us.

Which way to turn? There are waterfalls in front of us, grassy marsh with bear to our left, seals and white-capped mountains behind us, and all our twinkling boats to the right.

Indeed, what kind of dinner could one possibly prepare to pair with all this beauty?

Certainly something more inspiring than bagel chips. Sorry Larry.

I thought about what the bear might like: salmon, honey, berries, greens. And then I thought about what I have left on the boat, it being the mid-way point on the trip and my produce supply has dwindled down to a mere shadow of its former self. I decided to make one of my signature dishes. A tribute to this beauty should be matched by a meal that I would be proud to put my name behind. In fact, a meal I have recently taught in several classes around the Seattle area.

The salmon was roasted in a low oven with just a simple cloak of olive oil, salt and pepper. Thyme leaves were scattered generously under and on top of the fish. Red wine was reduced in a saute pan with stock, fennel seeds, thyme, honey, pepper and shallots. Fennel bulb, potato and red onion were sliced, slicked with olive oil, seasoned and roasted. The wine reduction was strained and mounted with butter and the meal was served with bruschetta and flowing wine and finished with a lovely cinnamon ice cream (thanks Dana B for the recipe). A meal fit for a bear and a fitting tribute to this lovely place.

I thought this was a job?

Then how come right before lunch today I was sitting in a volcanic hot spring paddling around with everyone else, the sun shining, a light breeze rustling the tree tops?

Seamanship report:

Yesterday J.C. taught me how to tie a bowline knot. Strangely, bowline, from what I would assume is "bow" "line" is pronounced as if you were saying, wanna go "bowlin"? I also learned last night that 3 out of 3 skippers asked say that the bowline is "the most important knot in sailing". I feel quite prepared now. The only problem is remembering how to do it. There was something about a rabbit and a rabbit hole and a fox. The most important thing I learned though was that you actually have to tie the knot to something. I stood back, all proud of my perfect bowline knot, and J.C. pointed out that it was great but I actually hadn't tied the dinghy up to the rail. It seems that "the most important knot in sailing" actually needs to be tied to something to work.

Friday, May 26

This was no fluke.

This was the moment. This was the moment I hoped would happen, but willed myself away from expecting it would. Call me pessimistic. Or cautious. I prefer to think my tempered enthusiasm and restrained outlook helps me appreciate the little things.

But even with restraint, you need to prepare for just that moment you secretly hope comes true. And there I was sitting at dinner at Shearwater, our arduous crossing of the Queen Charlotte Sound a day behind us, the brain-numbing drugs finally out of my system, when Matt, the manager, approached me. He asked me if I thought I might be interested in some salmon that these sport fishermen landed the day before and had left for the restaurant. According to Canadian law, all seafood needs to come from commercial sources. He couldn’t use it, would I be interested?

We walked to the marina’s freezer and refrigerator units at the dock. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a beautiful 20 pound King salmon. I held it tenderly like a baby, thanked him profusely, and coddled it the whole way down the dock back to Sanctuary. Jonathan aka “Shlomo” “I’m not a New York Jew” Cooper, back on board with us after a 4 day hiatus, followed me down the docks. Only mildly embarrassed by my absolute glee at this fortuitous gift I busily got to work. I cleaned, scaled and then, with the help of that infamous filleting knife, cut the salmon into portions so that each of our 16 boats would have some salmon for dinner the next night.

Delaying my own dinner and smelling rather ocean-like for the rest of the evening was a small price to pay for handling a salmon that was fresher than any I’ve handled before. Early this morning, I was still peeling scales off of my own skin. After I packaged up the fish I threw the backbone and tail over the side of the boat and watched as little fish picked at it immediately while it slowly sank away from sight.

I may miss the stars, the porpoises, and the whales, but I was in the right place at the right time to get this gift and my smile stretched from one side of my face all the way to the other.

Before even this moment could be fully appreciated, another memorable moment I will share: ironically, just one day after my post about the Seinfeld syndrome, I accidentally slept in this morning when the crew quarter phone rang. I picked it up and it was Captain Jeff yelling, “10 porpoises! Off the bow, port side! 10 porpoises!” I threw my clothes on and ran up the ladder and up to the bow where the whole crew was giddy and laughing with cameras out and porpoises…gone. I had to laugh out loud at my stupid dumb luck.

I then trudged up to my favorite perch on the fly bridge. Within an hour I heard from down below, “WHALE!” I looked around frantically but cautiously (not expecting to see anything, of course) when it showed itself, port-side, first its rounded shiny black back and fin…and then, and then…yes, its incredible, stunning, breath-halting, moment-stopping, tail. And, indeed, I did not expect it. And this time, dammit, I saw it.

I saw it.

And what a magnificent sight it was.

(Internet access continues to be a challenge...I'll post again as soon as I'm able.)

Wednesday, May 24

Did you see that?

Once again, Max and I awoke naturally this morning, We each leaned up in bed, looked at each other and said SH*T, the skippers called off the crossing - AGAIN. Not that I wanted to attempt it during a storm but, out of empathy for Max and her logistical nightmare, I was hoping we would get the go-ahead to attempt it this morning.

Several hours later and after much skipper debate, it was decided that – after all- we would attempt it at 10:30 this morning. We had said our goodbyes to this little floating village the night before. I, especially, had thanked Leesha, Sullivan Bay’s do-it-all employee, who so eagerly brought in some extra provisions for me. 10# of chicken, several gorgeous bunches of beautiful mint, some fruit and bread and other items. I’m finding that everywhere we go in Canada, the people are extremely friendly and generous.

Case in point: I learned a boating rule the hard way the other day. I sleepily gathered up all my items in the salon to head down to crew quarters. I neglected to leave one hand free (a wise rule to remember) and had piled up my laptop, camera, sunglasses, etc. in my arms. As I walked along the rail to get to our hatch, I felt the sunglasses sliding a bit on top of my load. As if in slow-motion I watched them slide off the top and out into the murky blackness of the water below. I only needed to hear the “bloo-oup” sound to confirm that, indeed, I had lost my $200 pair of prescription sunglasses over the side of the boat.

Leesha’s husband is a diver. She offered his assistance, but it turned out he was without a weight belt and therefore couldn’t do it. She then suggested three visiting commercial divers might be persuaded to go in after my coveted glasses. I agreed to make extra food for them if they’d dive for my glasses. Apparently this sort of thing happens all the time and experienced boaters know to hang a rock with string to indicate the exact area of the dropped item. Turns out, with the current being the way it was, my glasses had probably moved well beyond where they entered the water. So, as we made our preparations for getting underway I said a little goodbye to my specs.

At 10 am I popped a Bonine pill. At 10:30 Max and I donned our fashionable matching blue pressure point wrist-bands. The scopolamine patch was probably all out of medicine but I kept it on just in case. We stuffed our little mouths with crystallized ginger and drank a ginger beer for good measure. Frankly, if someone told me that belly-dancing on the bow would ward off the nausea, you know I’d be out there shaking it for all it’s worth.

As we headed out of protected waters and into the open ocean, the waves started really getting choppy (like “mashed potatoes,” said Captain Jeff). Max and I huddled together at the little table in the center-bow of the boat and our gaze never left the horizon. Captain Jeff continued to use language like, “this is nothing like what it’ll will be out there,” and “this isn’t bad, … yet.” Could have been anxiety and not true seasickness but regardless I was stuffing saltines in my maw and hoping that the next seven hours wouldn’t be the longest ones of my life.

Luckily for me, Max, and all the smaller boats on our tour, we had the wind at our back pushing us along, much like surfing. Captain Jeff increased our speed to 15 knots and the ride smoothed out. Suddenly, the patch/bonine/advil/antibiotic cocktail I was on all hit at the same moment and I just had to lie down. Several hours later I woke up ravenous. I shimmied and shook myself around the galley making a quick sandwich for Max and grabbing some leftovers for me. I ate. I slurred. And then I dropped like a two-ton sack of bricks onto the couch and slept straight through the entire trip. I only remember waking up once to hold onto the table so I wouldn’t fall off the couch completely.

You know how they always warn you not to operate heavy machinery when you are under the influence of certain drugs. I could barely operate my own body. Finding the energy to coordinate the movement of one leg in front of the other was the focus of my evening. Thank God I didn’t have to make dinner tonight. Instead, Duncanby Landing was ready for us with a hamburger buffet. I snarfed a burger and now I’m on the verge of passing out again.

Meanwhile, “Moonwalk” is over here in our quarters. It’s pouring rain, and the tours fix-it-man-extraordinaire is fixing a serious leaking problem we’re having in our hatch. Imelda’s shoe museum had to be relocated a foot or two out of the cascading waterfall that is coming from our hatch door.

The rain keeps coming down and we look back wistfully on the first four days of our voyage when the sun was shining, no clouds in the sky and afternoon breaks were spent up on the flybridge or on deck chairs on the bow watching the birds and boats go by.

The stars here have been absolutely amazing. I lay on my back one night and just gazed above and noted how tightly spaced they were. As I lay there, someone exclaimed “shooting star!” I didn’t see it. Similarly I didn’t see the whale that Sea-Gate saw today. I didn’t see the porpoises the other day either. I call this phenomena the “Seinfeld syndrome.”

Let me explain: Have you ever consistently missed something that everyone else seems to get? Have you ever felt that as you live, you amass more and more knowledge, yet there always is that thing that – amazingly – never passes before you? People around you are simply shocked and say helpful things like, “you’ve NEVER……??? I can’t believe it!!”

I’ve probably seen maybe 30 episodes of Seinfeld. Loved them, all of them. But go to any party or social affair and someone will say to me, “Have you seen the Seinfeld where Kramer x,y,z?” And, indubitably, I have not. Likewise, I’ve never seen a shooting star. And I especially don’t see shooting stars when other people around me see many. Maybe this is emblematic of some message I’m supposed to be getting here. Sort of a reverse of the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. If I look for it, it won’t happen. That is my new m.o. : appear disinterested, look in the wrong direction, allow these things to materialize in front of me, despite my put-on blasé attitude. Hear that whales, porpoises, shooting stars? I’m not looking! I can’t see you!

Tuesday, May 23


Still in Sullivan’s Bay, Monday May 22

Max and I slept in until 8 am. This can only mean one thing: the skippers met at 4:30 am and determined again that it was too rough to attempt a crossing. Always keeping the interests of the slowest, smallest boat in mind, the group decided to stay put. This got Max and Buck running around like crazy people. 2 weather days were built into the trip, but not at this early point so plans need to be cancelled or rescheduled. Internet is available easily here in the restaurant, but there are no working phones anywhere. The weather was actually pretty decent here today, but out in open ocean, swells of over 10 feet were reported.

I’m a bit anxious as all thoughts seem to be that we are going to attempt it firstthing tomorrow morning. “Moonwalk” set me up with some Pepcid AC and I still have maybe 1/2 day left on the patch. Might pop a Bonine as well as some ginger tea. I’ve decided that I’ll probably be a zombie tomorrow, too drugged up to even slur the most basic of directions as to where meals are located. “Sschuuur, hep yerseelves….sooome carrit stix thhere zzzz.”

I’d been advised to not even attempt to cook during the 7 hour crossing. I have various things prepared that can be eaten immediately or thrown in the microwave. Some boiled shrimp, leftover roasted turkey breast and cranberry sauce, various cheeses, fruit, a few leftover sushi rolls, cold poached halibut with green goddess sauce, some muffins, and granola. Our captain keeps scaring me with his descriptions of rolling ocean waves. He describes the waves in terms of how many seconds come between them. I immediately prepare myself as if I’m going into labor. Perhaps Max and I can squeeze in a quick Lamaze class before 4:30 am? He further attempts to “comfort” me by telling me that the boat will be fine, that the boat can take far more than the crew. Oh, thanks, I feel better already. Our first-mate scolds the captain for freaking me and Max out.

I feel much like I did one infamous afternoon at Great Adventure (or was it Disneyland?) when I was a kid. There we were, my brothers, my Dad, maybe a girlfriend of my Dad’s at the time, all together in a rollercoaster car. As it creaked and quivered its way up the track, I remember feeling happy and excited, almost proud of myself that it wasn’t scary as my brothers insisted it would be for me. Then, as our car slowly approached the apex of its climb, my little eyes peered up and over and I suddenly realized that this thing goes down, all the way down. Fast. I did the reasonable thing for an 8 year old. I asked my father if I could get off the ride.


I was done and I didn't need to see how the ride ended. I remember him laughing, and then me screaming and then lots of crying.

This has been a fabulously invigorating experience. But 10 foot waves? Ocean rollers rocking us all over the boat? Gale force winds? I’m sure I’ll be just fine, but I’m just a wee-bit anxious. I’m trying to be happy about the fact that, essentially, I get a day off work tomorrow. But I keep wondering if I ask the captain to pull over and let me out, if he will start laughing. I’m fairly certain that I’m not too old to follow that with some screaming and then lots of crying.

I’m trying to keep my thoughts positive. One way for me to remain optimistic is to distract myself by thinking about the amazing ingenuity of folks I meet all around the world. People are so crafty, especially in their approaches to food. Take this local recipe that I found in the Lagoon Cove, B.C. Cookbook. Just when you thought a hot dog was a hard thing to prepare, out comes this trend-setting simplification of a challenging foodstuff.

Easy Hot Dog Appetizer

I won’t write out all the details but suffice it to say you take a couple of hot dogs, slice them, put them in a hot pan, add a can of coke and cook until the coke is gone. Serve the dogs with ketchup and mustard in separate containers.

What makes me laugh hysterically (and temporarily forget my neuroses about the crossing tomorrow) is the idea that the commingling of coke and hot dogs probably came about by someone spilling their coke on their hot dog and then saying, “wow, that’s not half bad!” Sort of a reeses peanut butter cup moment, as in those old commercials where an unsuspecting woman in an office was walking with her spoon in some peanut butter and she comes around the corner only to run smack into a man dangerously walking with his outstretched chocolate bar.

But my favorite part about this “recipe” is that it makes it very clear you should keep the ketchup and mustard separate. Like, truly, it’s a-ok to mix your beverage with your weiner, but make sure those condiments remain perfectly isolated from one another.

I’m left with this question: exactly what on earth would be a Difficult Hot Dog Appetizer?

Some scenes from our days in Sullivan Bay:

With the help of Margo, Max and Jeff I'm slowly but surely learning how to tie up the fenders as we dock and throw out the lines.

Artsy-fartsy shot of the day.

Not much action here on Hoochie Lane. This land-lubber guessed that Hoochie referred to either alcohol, as in "hooch" or perhaps a B.C. take on getting some nookie. Imagine my surprise when I heard some of the skippers talking about "hoochies" - pink lures to catch salmon and halibut. Not to be confused with "hoochie mama".

Where's a dog to find a tree? Poor Max.

Sunday, May 21

Iron Chef at Sea: Sushi Battle

One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the adventure of mooring at different stops up the coast and scrounging for local foods to add to my provisions. Yesterday I had such an occasion. We anchored and then took the dinghy over to an abandoned First Nation's village. On the way there we were passed by one of our boats. They informed us that they saw fresh bear scat and that we should grab the coke can on the dock and place a pebble inside and shake it so the bear would know we were there. Honestly, I pondered the wisdom of letting a bear know my exact address. Meanwhile, Max grabbed the can and shook like hell for the next 20 minutes.

I preferred the more civilized technique of screaming "hey bear-y, bear-y!" Our fearless captain forged ahead, leaving the rest of us bringing up the rear, wondering if the photo the other boat took of us as we reached the dock would be the last one ever taken. It didn't comfort me that Buck was around. The headline: "Chef gets mauled by hungry bear before she could even offer it a snack" went through my head. But mostly, I couldn't even hear myself think thanks to Max's vigorous maraca dance.

Meanwhile, I spotted some nettles growing all around. I used the sleeve of my wool sweater to pick them off and stuffed them into a plastic bag. When we arrived safely (phew!) back to the boat I steeped them with a bit of honey for some nettle tea. I then chopped and squeezed the nettles dry. Adding a bit of toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds and seasoned rice vinegar, I set about preparing some sushi for our boat. I used the nettles as a spinach substitute for a futomaki roll (which means literally "fat roll" in Japanese).

I taught my second cooking class the other day. I had no idea what to teach because I had expected that seafood would be readily available and I had been finding it a bit harder to find. Fortunately, as soon as we arrived at Lagoon Cove I spotted a local woman walking a huge bucket of beautiful pink shrimp up to the marina office. I asked her if I could buy a handful from her to use in my class. Turns out the shrimp was for us anyway, as the marina was hosting a shrimp and crab feed for our dinner. I raced back to the boat, sampling a few on the way. They were, hands down, the BEST shrimp I have ever had. Caught that morning, boiled in heavily salted water and pulled way before they had a chance to get rubbery, they were sweet shrimpy goodness.

I decided, mostly because I had only a bit of crab and shrimp to work with, to do a sushi class where the rice and other ingredients could go farther. I knew I wanted the class to sample the differences between the frozen gulf prawns I had provisioned the boat with versus the local fresh shrimp just caught and boiled. There was no comparison. The frozen/thawed/cooked shrimp were good. The local shrimp were UNBELIEVABLY wonderful. No contest.

Sometime before the class started I was informed that the Takagis (the 3 men from Japan traveling with us) were also preparing sushi for that night's potluck dinner. Suddenly, I felt my competitive juices flowing. Could it be that a girl from New Jersey could prepare better sushi than 3 guys from Japan? Tongue firmly in cheek, I explained to my class that this was going to be the first Iron Chef on the High Seas. Buck pointed out that the Takagis had no idea I was also making sushi. I think the class really enjoyed the staged drama. It especially became humorous when Nori, one of the men aboard "Indigo", asked me if he could use our power to run his high-tech rice cooker. Again, remember they have no idea of the competitive fervor that was whipping me into a culinary frenzy. My students asked me if I was going to sabotage his rice (especially after explaining that sushi rice is the most important ingredient to perfect in making sushi). Of course not, I said. I wanted a fair fight.

2 hours later I wrapped up the class and presented these platters to the potluck.

I made the following:
  1. Inari with rice, scallion, tobiko and sesame seed.
  2. Broiled eel nigiri
  3. Spicy local shrimp rolls
  4. Dungeness crab and egg rolls
  5. Futomaki
  6. Carrot and hijiki salad
  7. Sunomono

Buck mentioned at the end of the class that making sushi, to the Takagis, was probably like making a ham sandwich. "Of course, " I said. But in my head I thought " I make a mean ham sandwich..." You probably want to know who won Iron Chef at Sea: Sushi Battle. I'd like to say me, but being that they didn't even know they were on my own reality t.v. show, it seemed unfair to rate our entries. And besides, they only did one kind of roll and actually made more fried things (potato croquettes and dumplings) than sushi. So it would really be unfair to name a winner. (But my offerings were finished before theirs. I won! I won! I won!)

Sea-sickness report: As I was teaching my cooking class I noticed I started to feel pretty dizzy. We were moored but were getting rocked side-to-side by other vessels' wake. Teaching the class, I was spinning from the cutting board to the sink and then behind me to grab ingredients. Sometime in the middle of the class I started feeling pretty green. Afterwards I slapped on another patch, got a good night sleep and decided I better not do dizzy izzies when the boat is rocking.

Meanwhile, today we have been stopped at Sullivan Bay as there were high waves and gale-force winds predicted for our crossing of the Queen Charlotte Strait. We had battened everything down last night, but a 4:30 am skippers meeting led to a weather day being taken in this tiny, tiny marina, with houses floating on logs. The little store had 2 heads of broccoli, 1 cabbage, some onions and 1 bunch of bananas. I single-handedly cleared them out of almost everything. Bear jerky, pringles and beer anyone? That's all that was left.

Thanks to Buck for the opening photo.

Scenes from Day 6 and 7

Captain Jeff checks out an abandoned house.

Ridgeback and Pacific jumbo shrimp.

Buck and Max try out their "jazz hands."

Rusted out tractor at Shoal Bay.

Fran "moonwalk" Morey wields a mean crab cracker.

Buck shows us his knees.

Last photo of "eye candy" - aka Justin- before he leaves us.

Artsy fartsy shot of the day.

View from the front porch.

Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound.

All our ducks in a row.

Max takes a sunset kayak ride.

Friday, May 19

En Route to Shoal Bay, B.C.

This photo was taken by Jonathan “Shlomo” Cooper, marketing manager and photographer for Grand Banks. He’s a great guy with tons of talent as this photo clearly demonstrates. He said the star was the asparagus, no offense, and could I back out of the photo even more. Love that guy. Love him. Mean it.

Our group has completely bonded, me and Max, Jonathan, David “Buck (Naked)” Hensel, Marketing/Communications Director for Grand Banks, and Justin, a photographer/reporter for an Italian magazine. Justin and Jonathan leave today and Max and I are blue. Fortunately J.C., aka Shlomo “I’m not a New York Jew”, Cooper returns in 4 days.

I discovered the other day that Buck (Naked), was the author of “50 ways to kill your chef” posted previously and therefore the person I had originally thought was the author is not (interestingly, I have so many brilliant people in my life, it was no less than 3 people I had accused).

It’s a bit disconcerting that someone so sick (and hilarious) and so fascinated by inventing ways that chefs have lost their lives on the high seas is sharing close quarters. Fortunately, for me, I’ve retrained the knife forged in Satan’s workshop to attack other people, not just myself. Love that guy. Love him. Mean it. We keep making little otter hands and upon my return to Seattle I’ve vowed to make W.W.M.J.D? “What would Mobily Juckers do?” t-shirts. On the backside they would say, “a seafood buffet to last a lifetime” or something like that.

I must say sharing tight quarters with Max has been a hilarious study in awkward ballet moves (which includes maneuvers like my now signature pose - standing on her bed to get things out of my bed’s little cabinet and looking over my shoulder, my butt in her face.) Other times we are engaging in a yacht-de-deux, stumbling and bumbling and giggling around. Max, aka “Imelda Marcos”, was open to my suggestion of stowing her 5 pairs of shoes underneath our ladder to our hatch. Love that girl. Love her. Mean it.

I’m really beginning to get into a rhythm on board. Up early, I enter the galley with the sun shining (the weather has been absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous) and set about making breakfasts. It’s surprisingly my favorite time of the day as I get to slowly move around the galley, slicing fruit, baking scones, watching it all out the window as I work. It’s quiet and peaceful. The smells of lemon scones filled the boat this morning, flavored with some lemon thyme I harvested off the aft-deck herb pot I planted up in Roche Harbor.

I had my first cooking class on board yesterday. 9 folks came on board from the group, 2 of whom are from Japan, one doesn’t speak any English at all. It was fun getting him to say the names of ingredients in Japanese. I taught the class how to make a Thai curry with chicken, tamarind, peanuts and ginger paired with coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves. I also taught the class my favorite Malaysian inspired salad: tender butter lettuce topped with a mixture of fried tofu, mango slivers, herbs and sweet chile dressing. We grilled prawns on the flybridge grill and garnished the salad with them. Afterwards we hosted a potluck on board. Gunter, a boater from Germany, had collected the sweetest, most amazing Pacific oysters and Max was initiated with her first one ever. “It was actually nice,” she reportedly said, “I was worried it would be a texture violation, but it wasn’t. One was enough.” I ate no less than 7, throwing the shells over the side of the boat. “Go, make more!” I thought happily.

The job hours are long, getting up (usually) around 6, working until 9pm, talking until 12 with some breaks between meals. But the job benefits: the views, the constantly changing environment, the hilarious companions I have been so lucky to share this experience with, and finally the animals (came upon a huge rock yesterday with numerous seals, eagles and baby eagles surrounding a blood stained area) more than offset the work. In fact, most of the time, the work has been entirely fun and short of some issues with product location and storage management - I lost some produce due to rotting when I put it in a bow compartment which bore the brunt of some very unexpected hot weather - totally worthwhile.

After my work ends in the evening, Max, the boys and I head over to the other Grand Banks staff boat or up top to the flybridge, share some beers and process our days. These moments are the pinnacle of the day. Much like any intense experience, each day feels like a week and knowing someone for 3 days feels like you’ve known them your whole life.

Mango, tofu and herb salad with toasted coconut and a sweet chile-lime dressing

I was inspired to come up with this recipe from a dish I had at Malay Satay Hut, a wonderful Malaysian restaurant in the International District. It’s almost embarrassing to tell people that the sauce essentially comes out of a bottle.

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or canola oil
  • 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu
  • generous pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup coconut, unsweetened, flaked (some reserved for garnish)
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup basil, rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 cup of cucumber, medium diced
  • 1 cup of bell peppers, any color, medium diced
  • zest of 1 lime, plus juice
  • 1 cup sweet chile sauce
  • lettuce cups or rice crackers

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 1/2” by 1/2” cubes. Add to the pan and sauté until brown on all sides, sprinkling with the sea salt and soy sauce. Remove to a piece of paper towel.

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the coconut until lightly brown. In a large bowl, add mango, herbs, peanuts, toasted coconut, cucumber, bell peppers, lime zest and juice and sweet chile sauce. Toss tofu into bowl and mix everything together well. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve with lettuce cups, or rice crackers (shrimp chips are also nice with this salad). If you grill some prawns, they would be extra amazing served around the edge. (In this photo, I had prepped the prawns by leaving the tail section on, skewering them into a straight line – to preserve the shape – mixing them with salt, pepper, lime zest, lime juice and canola oil.)

Sea-sickness report:
Hate to disappoint any of you but neither Max nor I, nor anyone else, has lost their lunch over the side as of yet. In fact, we are eating every 3 hours on the hour, so it might not be such a terrible thing to part with our meals. Not that I’m advocating bulemic purges but all this food with little exercise may have predictable results. I’m now patchless as the first one wore off after 3 days. Max is still taking ginger capsules which seem to work really well for her.

I’m finding that a lot of details are slipping by me so if for some strange reason you want to hear more about the actual places we are visiting and the day to day activites, you should really check out OCD at Sea, Max’s blog, as well as Buck Naked’s official Grand Banks tour blog.

Wednesday, May 17

Conversations with Margo

Well-known in the boating community is Canadian Margo Woods, who is taking the journey to Alaska with us. After her husband passed away, Margo continued editing Charlie’s Charts, a series of cruising guides for boaters traveling from Alaska to Mexico and other Pacific waters. Oftentimes she "singlehands" her 34 ft. sailboat.

She has taken me under her wing and taught me little important details about boating, such as looking in the sky for a hazy brown ring around the sun which many agree foretells rough weather ahead.

Sanctuary took its first dramatic side-to-side roll when a smaller, faster boat in our group created huge wake by accident. This would have been exciting had it not been the exact moment I was serving breakfast. I got initiated into boat cooking by baptizing myself with some splashing hot water and oatmeal as they made their quick trip from one side of the stove to the other. Once the waves smoothed out, Margo gave me my first lesson in protective cooking: secure your knives, never fill pots of liquid full and a wet towel can be layed at the edge of the counter to keep things from sliding off.

Margo boated with her husband for years without knowing how to swim. She quipped, “if my husband fell overboard he might struggle for a few hours and then that would be it for him, but if I fell over – it would be glug-glug-glug, GAME OVER” At the age of 35, she finally took swimming lessons. Prompted by a friend who suggested she should learn for the sake of saving her children should they go overboard, she was a quick study and faced her fears straight on.

The main stressor we experienced a few days ago, outside of the hot oatmeal facial I had, was the quick all-guest/crew meeting off the stern. Our captain informed us that someone had left a line in the water and that we had been dragging it the whole morning. It looked like a pack of wild otters had gotten their little teeth around the rope (but in fact it was the rope wrapped around the propeller). Another boat called over on the VHF (very high frequency) radio alerting us to the problem. Apparently the line could have become caught up in the engine, causing major repairs and an immediate end to Sanctuary’s voyage.

Luckily we live for another day. My boating education is coming along, I now know the stern from the bow, the head from the flybridge, the cockpit from the swim platform. And on this particular type of luxury yacht, the trash compactor from the washer/dryer (an important distinction, I might add). Then again, after 3 weeks wearing the same 5 things, that trash compactor might come in handy).

Menus from Sanctuary (the owners requested meals that were healthy and low on the food chain):

Day 1: Lunch
Tom ka gai (Lemongrass, mushroom and chicken soup), Shrimp rolls with chile-lime and hoisin-peanut sauce, ginger cookies

Day 2: Lunch
Penne with mint-pistachio pesto, grilled asparagus, chocolate-peanut butter tart

Day 3: Breakfast
Hash browns with garlic and red onions, Scrambled eggs with basil, cream cheese and asparagus, fresh fruit, yogurt, toast and jam

Day 3: Lunch
Grilled chicken with ceasar salad, tomatoes, parmesan reggiano and lemon-anchovy dressing, leftover pasta with mint-pistachio pesto, finished off the tart.

Sea-sickness report: So far, the “patch” is working marvelously. Feeling more tired than usual but that could be due to the late evenings and the crack of dawn departures. Max is also doing well on the ginger pills (which really says something as she is a self-reported hurler on the high seas).

Tuesday, May 16

Scenes from Day 2:

Beautiful night at Poet's Cove, Pender Island, B.C.

Oh, how I love the Canadians...

Sunset at Poet's Cove.

Stay tuned for stories of fascinating and quirky folks I'm traveling with, recipes, food tales, tall tales and why the word "batten" gets me running around the boat like a crazy person.

Scenes from Day 1:

Marina at Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington

Believe it or not, Mona, the island camel purchased by a couple from a petting zoo off of e-bay (likely due to a drunken bet.)

The Adventures of Chef and Max begin....

Chef with her other "adopted" boat dog, Cinnamon.

Another shot of Mona, because, well, it's a ^$(*@& camel.

Max says goodbye to Dr. Max.

Sweet Dana sees me off...

Update: Finding it quite difficult to upload photos. Today's stop included an internet cafe where I could put these up. But for the next weeks, it may be words alone. For all of you who emailed me, thank you and don't worry if I don't get back to you. Internet connection will get harder and harder the farther north we go.

Monday, May 15

I do believe my antennae are twitching

Roche Harbor, San Juan Island to Poet's Cove and today to Nanaimo:

Not too long ago, I caught the tail end of an NPR program that was about the experiences of people serving long-term prison sentences. A man was speaking about the sensory deprivation that comes from an extended incarceration. As described, life becomes reduced to various shades of grays, cold metal, the jangling of keys, and bland food – day in and day out. Prisoners, he related, become dulled to the input around them. It’s as if each person were entombed alive in swathes of cotton.

He then shared his observation and surprise that, upon release, he found us “free” people to exhibit much the same “dullness” of sensory deprivation. He remarked that our antennae had long since ceased twitching. And while he was nearly blinded from each input - the depth of the color, the flavor of the food, the richness of the sounds - the rest of us walked around blind to it all.

I have experienced this feeling in my life; the sense that you know you should be appreciating each moment, taking it all in, keeping it all in perspective. Yet, at the same time, you feel completely unable to do so. Colors dull, sounds fade, food tastes bland and you try to appreciate it all, but feel the sense of swimming through dense swabs of trivialities and petty annoyances.

And while the image of antennae twitching reminds me frighteningly too much of a ginormous-sized roach I did combat with in D.C. one summer, I continue to gravitate towards it. If your life feels this way; if your antennae cease to twitch, twitch them into awakening. Taking a job doing something challenging and exciting is one way. Today is my first day of a totally exhilarating job. Commence the twitching.

Thursday, May 11

Blood on the High Seas

If it weren't so ridiculous, it would be ridiculously funny. At the very least, it is a freaky story.

WARNING: if you are in the slightest ill at ease with blood, gore, or stupidity, stop reading this now.

You're still reading.

Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Yesterday I went down to Seattle Cutlery to buy the photographed scimitar/breaking knife/evil dastardly weapon of destruction. I knew exactly what I wanted having used a similar knife at the Herbfarm, breaking down king salmon and other large fin-fish for several years. The joys of using a thin-bladed, slightly flexible knife - curved at the tip for gracefully filleting near the bone - cannot be underestimated. I knew I wanted my own for this trip as I'm really hoping to catch and fillet salmon and halibut.

With these thoughts in my head, I made my way down to one of my top ten most favorite places in the world, the Pike Place Market, to purchase the torture-device. Once in the store, I chatted with the nice gentleman and discovered that he had spent some time cooking in the galley of a large fish processing ship. We continued sharing pleasantries and then I asked him for a knife guard for my new purchase. He apologized, saying they didn't have one for this size knife.

I then watched, slightly mystified, as he wrapped the 10" machete of doom in a piece of butcher paper. That's right. Butcher paper. As in parchment paper or perhaps as in "you've been SERVED papers". As in "it's as thin as a piece of paper" paper.


As in rock, paper, scissors, where scissors clearly kicks the booty of paper. Why? Because it's a blade against paper.

I asked the nice man for a plastic bag with handles. He didn't have one. So he wrapped it, now firmly and certifiably protected in the piece of paper, in a paper sandwich bag. I held it for awhile in my hand and then realized that I might hurt someone walking around in a crowded market with a razor sharp knife at my side. I remembered I had a plastic bag in my pocket (for the dog, you know). I placed the evilness in said bag.

Enter my friend, who just randomly appears in the same store, unexpectedly. We hug and chat and as she is also a chef, we talk about knives and what she's buying. She notices that my satanical slicing device has used all of its energies to muscle through the paper and then the plastic and fully an inch of steel tip is exposed. I put it up on the counter and ask the nice man to rewrap my knife, double-checking that he's sure there is no knife protector I can put over it for safety. No, sorry.

He re-wraps the stainless steel fillet knife from hell in not one, but two pieces of the magical, impenetrable kevlar ditto pad. I put it back in the plastic bag, leave the store, and mingle the death-wand with its newest bag-mates: one eggplant sandwich, a lemonade beverage and a few gifts I have purchased for Max's 40th birthday today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAX!!! That's only a few years old in dog years). My friend and I head over to the market stalls, wander a bit and then say our goodbyes.

Literally 30 paces later I feel a searing pain that momentarily takes my breath away. Prone to dramatic overtures, I cue the sweeping music soundtrack, imagine my eyes going blurry and I think (or do I scream?) "I've been shot!" Quickly I notice that I am bleeding. A lot. From my knee.

That's right. There I am, walking along, beautiful spring day, swinging my bag in tune with my step when - while no surprise to you by now, but very surprising to me - I have punctured myself with my new knife. It's crazy I know. That thing put up a mighty struggle to liberate itself from the 2 layers of paper. It did though. And I'm bleeding proof that blades kick papers' collective ass.

Once I calm myself down, I hobble directly back to the knife shop and request 1. a bathroom 2. some alcohol and 3. some bandages. The nice man is now a very flustered nice man. He is literally stuttering. In the bathroom, I peel off my bloodied jeans and check over my knee bits and pieces - now in pieces and bits. I determine that I have self-inflicted a deep puncture wound into my right knee, luckily just above the knee joint itself. The bleeding stops within 15 minutes. The dramatic sweeping soundtrack plays on. I return to the shop and very calmly say the following:

"I strongly suggest that when a customer buys a knife without a proper knife guard that you put a cork on the tip or wrap the blade in cardboard." He hands me a business card and says to call if I need them to take care of anything, anything at all. He stutters a goodbye.
I feel mildly stupid about all this. I'm used to working with knives. I've had my share of mishaps with them. But this one feels a) particularly freakish and b) totally avoidable. I'm not going to sue Seattle Cutlery. But I will say this. If you buy your knives there or anywhere for that matter, make sure (no, demand!) that they package them safely. I also suggest to you that if the weather is nice and you are walking along, excited about your upcoming adventure, not a care in the world, swinging your arms, try not to have a lethal weapon in your bag set on a destruction course with your already compromised ACL-reconstructed knee. Just some friendly advice.

Meanwhile, just to add another layer of freakishness to my story, I relay the following: Max's husband is a doctor and a friend (and my neighbor) and she makes him come over to my house to check out my wound, now quite swollen and painful. He calls his orthopedic friend and we decide the knife probably didn't enter the joint but I should immediately start a course of antibiotics, particularly because I'm headed out to sea for 3 weeks. I quickly ascertain if the antibiotics can be taken along with my seasickness meds and sleeping pills (to dampen out his wife's snoring). He calls in a prescription. Within 20 minutes I'm paying for the meds.

The price of the meds? $40.
The price of the evil-doing blade from satan's workshop? That's right. $40.
Pain-numbing ability of realizing this would make good blog fodder: Priceless

Special notes of thanks to the following for doting on me: Bean, Laverne, Boudinski, biscuit-maggot, Caramel, DD, Max and Doc, and Doc B for the phone consult.

Wednesday, May 10

What can brown do for you?

Because I'm, well, obsessed with food, I often quiz my family and friends about which foods they would bring with them if they were stranded on a desert isle. I thought it would be interesting and fun to pose that question to you.

The rules:

You are stranded on a boat beached on a island. You can get whatever fish you want and hand-harvest your own damn sea salt (think of the money you'll save). There is a natural fresh water stream on the island (snow-melt from the very, very, tall mountain-of course, due to global warming, this is a limited resource, so enjoy it!) There is nothing left on the boat and as far as you know nothing on the island save your own unfortunate soul. You get 10 items to select. Huge categories don't count. You can't say "Herbs and spices" or "Meat". Try to be specific, it's more interesting. These food items will be delivered to you in your sorry state by UPS, because it is simply endless what brown can do for you. No, you cannot ask for more items from the UPS person. I know they're cute in their little brown shorts, but you can't have them either.

To get you going, here is my list (in no particular order):

    1. Dark chocolate
    2. Marjoram (my favorite herb)
    3. Red wine (not too picky, but if I had to narrow it...Oregon Pinot Noir from Adelsheim.)
    4. Bread (Essential's Columbia loaf is a favorite)
    5. Goat cheese (anything from Quillisascut or a new favorite, the Larzac, from Monteillet near Walla Walla-look for it at Seattle farmer's markets)
    6. Greens (kale, specifically. I crave greens, often, and will soon post a recipe whereby I render them tender and sweet and not bitter at all).
    7. Olives (never met a kalamata I wouldn't eat).
    8. Squab (call me mean, but I just love eating little birds and squab is the tastiest).
    9. Lemon (I love sour things...hell, if I could, I'd bring ZOURS)
    10. Matzo ball soup (because I think I'll need a little comfort food!)

Honorable mentions: fennel, peaches, raspberries, huckleberries (wow, no fruit...that sucks!), wild mushrooms, nettles, tomatoes, lettuces, beer, NY steak, chocolate-covered gummy bears (I'll still be premenstrual on the island, no?)

I used to think this would be a great question to pose to other chefs and then write a book about it. And then the book Culinary Artistry came out in 1996 which did just that. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, you stole my idea! Ah well, it's a great book and from it I will share with you the top-10 lists from a few famous chefs. They didn't have to follow any of my strict rules (and it shows).

First, from the late Jean-Louis Palladin:

    1. Poultry: I'd bring duck.
    2. Foie gras: I'm addicted to foie gras.
    3. Bananas: They give you strength.
    4. Salt: I'm nuts about salt.
    5. Spices and herbs: I like verbena so much that I named my daughter after it.
    6. Olives. Likewise, I named my son Oliver.
    7. Wine. When I smell it, it's so fantastic...
    8. Grappa or Armagnac
    9. Dried cod.
    10. Water. I'm addicted to water-I drink four or five liters of Evian a day!

He said nuts and salt on the same line. That's crafty but it's still cheating! And now from Alice Waters:

    1. Bread
    2. Olive oil
    3. Garlic
    4. Tomatoes.
    5. Herbs- Basil or rosemary, perhaps
    6. Salad greens-wild rocket or chicories
    7. Noodles-any kind. I had great soba noodles recently, and I love Italian pasta.
    8. Citrus-I like citrus a lot-everything from limes to blood oranges.
    9. Figs-I like them fresh. I like baking fish in fig leaves, which gives it a coconut-like flavor and is very aromatic. And I like cooking over fig wood.
    10. Nuts-It's hard to choose-probably almonds or walnuts.

If she said Bruschetta she could have knocked off numbers 1-5. But then that would be cheating, like my insertion of number 10, matzo ball soup (which is a sneaky way of saying eggs, chicken, carrots, celery and matzo meal, aka Jewish hardtack). And lastly, a list from Jean-Georges Vongerichten:

    1. Lemongrass. It's my favorite herb. I love its fragrance. It's addictive. I could cook it with my eyes closed. It's like a friend. I'm so comfortable with it.
    2. Sweetbreads. I need to eat them once a week. I love the flavor and the texture-which go with everything.
    3. Salad greens. I like Asian greens, watercress. I put them everywhere.
    4. "Liquid salt" (nam pla and/or soy sauce) I use it in marinades, in seasoning-it's different.
    5. Parsley. It's the first herb I knew-I grew up with it. I chop it as needed, because within two minutes, it starts losing its flavor.
    6. Mustard. I love it as a condiment.
    7. Truffles. Both black and white-they're gems of the earth.
    8. Curry paste (red, green and yellow). I like mixing all three for lobster with herbs.
    9. Fish. I'm a fish freak.
    10. Licorice. I grew up with it-as a kid, I always chewed it. I like it in desserts, on pears, ice cream, sweet-breads.

He is a sweet-bread freak, clearly. Now it's your turn. What kind of a food freak are you?

Trip Preparation Report: T-2 days until I depart for the San Juan Islands, WA where we will rendevous with all the other Grand Banks boat owners going on this trip. T-4 days until we are "underway". Spent all day yesterday repeating the shopping spree at Slotnicks. Blew through over $1000 at PCC (for organic and bulk items), Noah's (for bagels for freezing), Uwajimaya (for all Asian items) and Mutual Fish (frozen shrimp, unagi-frozen, prepared eel, tobiko-wasabi and regular flying fish eggs- and calamari-cleaned and frozen).

Arrived at the boat yesterday to learn that the 6 "convertible" freezer/refrigerator drawers I'm working with in the galley are not "convertibles". Which, in essence, means that I had planned for freezer space for an entire drawer-full of product. Luckily I hadn't yet purchased the poultry items intended for that space. The owners were alerted. I'm waiting to hear if they are having a external bar fridge turned into a freezer or if I will need to set up a cooler on the deck (where it will be much colder) for frozen fruits and breads to make room for the meat which should be in consistent deep freeze.

And in other news: I just discovered this website that gives "virtual tours" of Seattle. On their page, there is a tour of the exact model of swanky boat I will be on. Some things are different on our boat-ours comes with a private chef and a dog named Max- but you'll get a general idea. If you click each photo of the different areas of the boat, it will take you to a page where you can slide your mouse around and get a 360 degree look. If you spin the photo very fast in one direction, you will be able to empathize with any motion sickness we may feel. Oh, and watch your head!

Monday, May 8

Shopping Spree at Slotnicks

T-4 days. It's been one hell of a preparatory ride these past few days. My head is spinning faster than Bush's speech writer.

The longest shopping list of my life is STILL being written. There are only 2 Seattle-based opportunities to load the boat. The first was 3 days ago, the second, tomorrow.

My friend spent the better part of Friday with me making quick work of my budget. We were like Laverne and Shirley in that classic episode where they win a shopping spree at their local supermarket, Slotnicks. They only have so much time to load their carts (and their bodies) and cross a finish line. They had hams up their pants legs and boxes and boxes of cookies (if I remember correctly). They couldn't even move they were so overloaded. When they finally staggered toward the finish line-eventually crawling on the floor- the bell went off and they each reached forward crossing the finish line with only one item. Everything else had to be abandoned. This, my friends, is my own worst case scenario and the stuff of my nightmares.

The customers at PCC Fremont had their mouths agape as we approached the checkout line. Saying the polite "oh, no, please, go ahead of me" was pretty much par for the course as we pushed our bloated cart up to the belt. One somewhat surly man just kept staring at the cart and then at me and then at the cart and then at me. We had huge, overflowing bags of bulk items: beans, rice, nuts, flour, cornmeal, pastry flour. Bags and bags of chips, salsa, and pretzels. Cartons of milk, dried fruits, spices, sausages, and shrimp. Nori, bottles of vinegar, oils, pasta, cartons of energy bars. I was so tempted to just look the man in the eye and say with a straight face "My friend here, she just gets ravenous when she's pre-menstrual!"

We quickly loaded up the car and then headed over to the marina on west lake union where the boat is tied up. Our co-captain revealed to us all the possible nooks and crannies where I could store the provisions. One of the primary places to store food is under the seats in the main "dining area". It's fairly remarkable actually because you simply pull off the velcroed back cushions and pull the hydraulic seats and they smoothly lift up revealing plenty of storage. I feel the bizarre need to remember exactly where every item is stored so that I can impress my diners by saying "excuse me sir, can you please stand up, I believe you are sitting on my fish sauce!"

I'll be honest: it's been hard for me to get to sleep at night because I have so many things running through my brain. Little details about recipes and fears of not having enough food (not a chance!) compel me to turn the light on so I can jot down another note about supplies. Mostly I can't sleep because I can't remember the only items Laverne and Shirley came away with at Slotnicks? Was it Bosco syrup and mallomars? Help!

Thursday, May 4

I need insurance, and then porridge

Years ago, when out driving, I would think about all the discarded cassette tape flotsam and jetsam along the sides of the roads. Long brown streamers that would catch the wind and curl up around the bottoms of street signs and form twisted bundles in the storm drains. I wondered if someone could string together all the bits of different people's lost or discarded music and put them together. What would that sound like? Kenny G/Run DMC/Carli Simon/Dvorchak?

A friend recently suggested an art project where you pick up all the scraps of shopping lists found on the aisles and stuck in the little bars of the shopping carts in every supermarket in every town and form a collage of sorts. I wonder if someone should come upon my shopping list for this trip. What would it say about this moment in time? (And how utterly flummoxed would I be if I lost it?)

The origin of the photo I posted is unknown (and hopefully not copyrighted, she said quietly). It's fascinating to me. It's 1935, no, scratch that, 1937 and whoever wrote this list itemized insurance right along with porridge. It's just one moment in time in one person's life.

I'd call it: Shopping, interrupted.

Because you just know those sad people still needed that list.

Wednesday, May 3

Never turn your back on an otter

A certain friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, has posted a comment after yesterday's entry that is so BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS that I feel the need to post the comment as another post. Perhaps this will convince this friend to go into writing as a profession? Hmmm, perhaps? (For the record, I know exactly who she is and to prove it....I will say to her: "Don't forget the terrible tragedy in 1889 when a barrister in London, while preparing her favorite dish of prawns and lard, was run down and trampled by her own pack of 4 hunting dogs-one just a wee lil' one- chasing a small orange cat named "miss sweet potato.")

Her comment, in it's entirety:


I am enjoying your blog, and am eager to read more of your exploits.

I especially admire your courage – particularly in light of the wretched, often tragic ends that befell so many other cooks, chefs and galley stewards who have made the same journey by sea. I’m sure you must know already (for who would tempt fate so recklessly?), but perhaps your readers would like to hear the story as well. If nothing else, the element of risk adds another dimension (dare one say spice?) to your tagine-and-couscous adventure.

Many of the more recent “events” – deaths, dismemberments and disappearances of galley staff aboard cruise lines and megayachts – are well known, of course. I won’t waste space repeating those here. What many don’t realize is that they are merely modern echoes of what some have called the Culinary Curse of the Inside Passage (sort of a “Who’s Killing the Great Chefs…?” of the Alaskan Frontier).

It was Hillary Danforth Merryweather who, riding aboard Captain James’ Cooks’ “Resolution” (dispatched by His Majesty, King George III, in 1776), was the first chef to suffer a brutal end to what was until then a glorious career in the culinary arts. Bitten by a trapped otter while attempting to prepare a celebratory “otter surprise” (apparently Cook’s favorite dish), he quickly bled to death before his shipmates could remove his layered clothes and attend to the injury at his groin. (Footnote: many believe this episode accounts for the origin of the saying, “never turn your back on an otter.” Wise words, indeed…)

At that time, George Vancouver was aboard the Discovery, Resolution’s sister ship. Coincidentally, when Vancouver set sail as Captain himself on another (different) ship named Discovery in 1791, Merryweather’s garde-manger, Robspierre Valentin, accompanied him – this time as chef.

Unfortunately for Valentin, the outcome was not much different. Smothered under more than two hundred pounds of whale blubber that his own garde-manger had carelessly laid into stores, it was two full days before the crew found him suffocated under all the oily fat. (Valentin, while heralded as a culinary artiste in his day, was not known for his physical strength.)

More disturbing calamities followed, in grim succession. Mobily Juckers, chef for Captain Dixon’s first voyage up the Inside Passage, was set upon by bald eagles while on the poop deck preparing an “al fresco” seafood buffet. Several of the crew saw the incident, but none could reach the poor fellow before he was carried aloft and away. A single rowboat was lowered for pursuit until the men saw Juckers disappear over a stand of tall Douglas fir; the rescue was called off.

Captain Billings’ chef, the young Michel de la Pouline Villepangnole, met his end at the hand of his own shipmates (Billings was known for carrying a notoriously salty crew), who failed to find the humor in M de la PV’s amouse bouche of hardtack and salmon roe. Portlock lost his entire galley staff to a sablefish smoking accident. Henderschott saw both his chef and sous-chef devoured by a sea cow of singular size and, as he would later write, “a determined, feisty disposition.”

This list goes on, but this is your forum, not mine; I’ve taken too much space already. Suffice to say, I admire your pluck, young chef. Good luck on your journeys – I and many others will be following along to learn of your fate!

Tuesday, May 2

Pork Rib, Boneless, Imitation

Yesterday I went with my friend down to the Army-Navy supply store on 1st Avenue in Downtown Seattle to get some highly attractive plastic rubber pants to complete my 100% fully functional, Alaska-bound boating attire. Cute, I sure won't be. When those cheek-whipping squalls blow by, no one will be calling my number but goddamn it I'll be dry.

So while we are there outfitting the Amazon, I encountered something quite disturbing. I've heard of them. I've seen them. I've even tasted their yuppie-equivalent in the form of an REI chicken cacciatore. And from what I'm recently gathering, an MRE: Meal Ready (to) Eat is nothing short of the military version of the highly publicized "sous-vide" technique.

I may soon eat my words, but "sous-vide" AKA "boil-in-a-bag" has yet to strike my fancy...I've eaten some pork loin cooked "sous-vide" but it didn't seem to me to be very special or different. Not that I'm closed to the idea. So far, though, it hasn't moved me. But back to my story.

The MRE was adopted as the Department of Defense combat ration in 1975 when I was just a wee-thing, only a few years away from master-minding the "Snowball". I'm not sure why but there was something incredibly disturbing about coming face to face with the brown cardboard box that displayed the following 4 words: Pork Rib, Boneless, Imitation. I'm fairly certain it was the last word that was most unsettling.

It's like this: whatever your political leanings, I'm fairly certain you'd agree that our military deserves REAL food. What strikes me as absolutely BIZARRE about the concept of Pork Rib, Boneless, Imitation is this: why not just make an MRE of Pork Stew? Why attempt to MacGyver a boneless pork rib out of porky bits? There is actual pork in the ingredient it's not a lie to call it Pork Something or other. It's as if someone decided "well, it's like this...everyone likes a good pork we'll just market it like that. But they can't have the rib in the little packages, so we'll make it boneless, but then we don't want to get expensive boneless pork ribs, so we'll just MacGyver a boneless pork rib out of porky bits...they'll love it and no one will ever know!" Until the U.S.D.A steps in and puts the word IMITATION just as big and prominent as Pork Rib, Boneless. It just kills me.

Shall I name the other ingredients? Let's first start with the byline: Caramel Color and Smoke Flavor Added

Ingredients: Imitation Boneless Pork Ribs (Pork, Water, Tomato Powder, Salt, Dextrose, Sugar, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Worcestershire Sauce Powder (sugar, sodium diacetate, salt, dextrose, corn syrup solids, spice, citric acid, caramel color, dehydrated garlic and onion, cellulose gum, malic acid, natural flavor (OHMIGOD, say it ain't so!), onion powder, soybean oil, smoke flavor, grill flavor (malto-dextrin flavor (from partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil), modified corn starch, corn syrup solids), flavorings.

I'm not entirely sure what half of the ingredients are but I think I see sugar in about 18 different forms. I'm most in- would awe be the right word?- of the "grill flavor". So they take trans-fats, corn starch and corn syrup and that tastes "like" the grill. It probably would have been cheaper and easier to just chuck a lump of gas-soaked charcoal in the MRE bag and it would probably taste just like most backyard American barbecues. But then the food scientists wouldn't get paid and cynically-minded, sustainable food nerds would have nothing to blog about.

The real reason I'm mentioning the MRE's? Deep down I'm wondering if anyone would notice if I stocked the boat with 630 of them. Forget the shopping list. My work here is done.

Monday, May 1

Speak, Max, speak!

The Longest Shopping List of My Life (see last post) is taking The Longest Amount of Time so stay tuned for tomorrow's post where I finally have time to talk about it.

In the meantime, I'm so excited to report that "the couscous to my tagine", my trusted loyal crewmate Max has started her own blog named OCD at Sea. A simple read of her inaugural post will explain the title.