Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine
Oysters!Oysters were what Ren and I had on our minds as we waited to board our plane from Deadman’s Cay to Florida.We were both in need of some good old, slimy, snotty, NC oysters, which are a staple of the cold weather holiday season back home.In NC the measure of Winter is not made by the thermometer alone but by the opening of oyster season.When the water in NC gets cold, well, by our thin skin standards, the march smells a certain way.The smell goes from a nice healthy rotten egg, sulfur odor that permeates the air during warmer weather to a green, fresh smell.The air and water are both crisp with a chill.The water becomes super clear as the last mud settles from the summer boating season and the algae stops growing.This is oyster season.This is the season for locals only as all the tourists have left, heading back to their inland homes in Raleigh and Charlotte.This is the season where the local folk get into their single motor boats…or john boats even, slowly putting along to each bank of every shallow, unnamed creek in the marsh for sharp, pointy, projections clustered together and sticking up out of the mud.
Once an oyster bed or accumulation of these bivalves has been spotted the Carolinian slowly lowers his hook (anchor) into the water and steps out into the quicksand mud in white, calf-high rubber boots.These boots are affectionately called Sneads Ferry Sneakers, after a small fishing town just north of Wilmington.If you ever find yourself lost in coastal NC and you spot a big burly man with chest waders and these tell tale white rubber boots, do not be afraid to approach.Although he may have a distinct and intimidating Duck Dynasty look, you have found a friend, this man is one of our people.
The oyster harvester steps cautiously through the muck leaving big symmetrical, horizontal lines in the sand with each footprint.He is careful not to disturb anything other than his target catch.The not-so-wily oyster. Once he spots a cluster of these tasty little animals, he uses a big long screwdriver or a piece of available scrap metal to carefully pry or knock off undersized oysters from the cluster.Alas, the oyster man is left with the ever coveted “single”.Bring a bushel of these “singles” over to a buddy’s house for an oyster roast and people will be serving you up oyster shooters all night.The “single” oyster is a sure sign that the harvester has taken good care of the animal during the harvest.The oyster was further respected through the act of knocking off the undersized oysters from the cluster.In this way the population can be conserved.Only the regulation 3” oyster makes it to the table.
Oh and what a table it will make!Oysters are best enjoyed with a crowd of folk.Wear warm clothes, invite your friends and family and gather around a burn barrel until the oysters are ready to eat.Add a couple of beers, oyster shooters, a pot of chili, cornbread and a few chocolate chip cookies (because they are my favorite) and you have got yourself a good time.You have got yourself a bon-a-fide south eastern oyster roast.
Summers are special.The weather is warm and we humans come out of our Winter hibernations with pale skin and extra fluff around the mid section.We look forward to enjoying the outdoors and moving again, being active.Winter, if played properly, can be just as inviting as warm Summer.Get outside, but stay next to the fire.Enjoy a mosquito free evening with friends.Of course, this is being said from the warm embrace of the Caribbean aboard Nila Girl.It is easy to look back fondly on Winter when it does not have it’s cold fingers wrapped around your throat.
For pictures from an oyster harvest and oyster roast this past December visit Ren’s Facebook album.Don’t forget to “Like” Evolve Freediving on Facebook.
Check out video instructions on how to harvest oysters on Ren’s YouTube channel.
The Chapman’s friend, Dave Benson, collecting oysters in the marsh near the Scotts Hill area in NC.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2 cups ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup self rising flour*
1/2 cup fresh chopped jalapenos**
2 cans sweet cream style corn
2 tblsp. vegetable oil
Milk to taste and to consistency
Place vegetable oil in the bottom of a 12”x9”x2” pyrex baking dish.Put oiled pan into oven.Meanwhile mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.Chop the jalapenos in small cubes and de-seed as needed.Add the sweet corn and jalapenosto the dry mix.Don’t be scared of the jalapenos…they are what is going to make the cornbread gooood!MIx ingredients together and slowly add milk to consistency.Not to dry but not watery either.Once oven is preheated and oil and pan are scalding hot, pour batter into pan.If more than 1/4” of oil pools in the corners of the pan us a baster to decant some it off.Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 min.
*Use 1tsp. of baking powder if not using self rising flour.
**De-seed to taste.We like things spicy so we use 5 jalapenos and only de-seed two of the five.
When done, eat warm!The oil will add a fried element to the bottom of the bread making it perfect.
An oyster roast favorite.Imbibe with caution!
1/2 pint bloody mary mix
1/2 pint vodka
1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish root
10 shakes of hot sauce
4 shakes of worcestershire sauce
Mix all ingredients above and shake vigorously in a screw-top container.Pour into shot glass, add hot steamed oyster and…Cheers!
Vegan, no sugar added brownies that will knock your socks off.This is why I need almond butter so bad!
We have made Banff brownies twice in Nila Girl’s galley.Once on our passage to Jamaica (please reference Day 3 blog post) and once while my brother, Corey, came to visit.I am not much of a baker, never have been but I will admit that if you really want to make someone feel truly happy, special, have a big dish of warm homemade brownies waiting for them.These are the sentiments I want to impart to both Ren and Corey, which is why I have made brownies for both of them.Homemade brownies does not mean you’ve opened a box, added water and baked them in your oven.Homemade means you have dirtied at least four different utensils during the measuring and mixing process.And in the case of these brownies, you have used more than three ingredients.Besides, Banff brownies do not come in a box at the store.In fact the vegan, no sugar added recipe is the brainchild of the ever inspiring Banff Luther of Pavana.
These brownies mix up wet.Even after baking they are a moist, sticky mound of black pleasure (why is it that the brownie description is already sounding like the preface of a porn novel?).The brownies are so dense that your fingers get lost in them as they sink deep into the gooey food while you are just trying to hold one of them (again, maybe I should omit the words “Banff brownies” change them to “Chuck Longwood” and send this article to Hustler).
Banff always had a fresh supply of these brownies made up.If he had a vice, this was certainly it.He was not ashamed to turn us all into brownie seeking zombies searching for our next fix.So here we are, in the Bahamas addicted to Banff brownies but there is a serious problem.Bahamians cannot bake brownies.They can do bread.Their fresh, warm coconut bread is unrivaled.They can also make a sort of tart, so I have heard, I never tried one myself though.Why would I?The tart does not have chocolate in it.But they make brownies in the fashion of their English brethren, dry, bland and wholly unsatisfying.Like a little square of dry chocolate cake, crumbly and bad.Banff brownies are in the sharpest contrast to these abominations of chocolate.Remember folks, we cannot all be good at everything.Bahamians, stick to bread.By the way, you owe me $1.75 for the crappy little confection you misnamed “brownie” that I bought in Governor’s Harbor.Yes, I ate it anyway but not because I wanted to.Only because I am compelled to finish everything on my plate.This is in thanks to my half Italian heritage, I am sure. I have got to learn when to say, “Basta!”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup white wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup Hershey’s extra dark cocoa
1/4 cup regular cocoa (we used carib powder)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2.5 tablespoons vanilla (we are pirates now so we used rum which is a perfect vanilla substitute)
1/4 cup water (we used rum…just joking)
1 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup safflower oil (we used olive oil which we do not mind but it’s a lot stronger than safflower oil and affects the flavor slightly)
3/4 tub almond butter (we used peanut butter because we ran out of almond butter a long time ago and my brother brought us Nutella instead of the almond butter we requested…FAIL)
Mix all ingredients by hand until smooth and pour into any baking dish.Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until the middle is loose but tooth pick pulls out clean.Baking times may vary depending on size of the baking dish or maximum temperature of your oven, which in our case, Nila Girl’s only reaches 300 degrees.
When done, let cool 10-15 minutes for settling before cutting.
NOTE: The ratios above are copied from a recipe I got from Banff himself.All substitutions areunauthorized but work!
Please note the “ “ around “gourmet” in the title of the Nila Girl’s “Gourmet” Galley blog entries.These “ “ act as a disclaimer so that you will not expect each entry to be a life changing work of art.Far from it even.Sometimes I would like to report on what we eat when the cookey does not feel like cooking.What goes on in Nila Girl’s galley when we have spent the day freedive training and only have enough energy left for the most basic meal?
It is my job to feed the family.Only on the rare occasion can I complain my way out of this essential duty.In the same rare way that Ren can convince me to get out of bed, get dressed and dinghy Oreo over to the beach for his pee-pee, way before I am ready to move; I can con Ren into making up some vittles for us.When I will not cook and he will not be convinced to take over, we resort to our family smorgasborgs.
Smorgasborg has always been one of the author’s favorite meals. Ren is easy and quickly adapted to this simple pleasure.
Smorgasborg supper is a long standing lazy supper tradition passed down to me from my family.Mom, Dad, Corey and I would gather around a kitchen counter, armed with knives, cutting up cheese, pickles, pepperoni and sometimes olives.We would take the cutting board, now loaded with the recently cut goodies, into the living room and make toppling towers with the bits of food stacked too high on top of saltine crackers.We never called the meal smorgasborg, we just called it “crackers and cheese”.The name, smorgasborg, is unique to Ren and myself.The simple meal/snack of goodies was expanded to include bananas, raisins, sun dried tomatoes, leftover bits of fish, simply EVERYTHING from the fridge.We add and add to our own cutting board until it resembles a veritable smorgasborg, a plentiful buffet fit for a king.We know the meal is fit for a king because we tried it out on King Oreo.He approves of smorgasborg night mostly because we must drop more food on the floor as bits of overcrowded food are pushed closer and closer to the edge of the cutting board with every swipe of carrot through blue cheese dressing.As I scoop up a handful of raisins and pair them with a couple of green olives I taste the pungent cheddar cheese and salty pepperoni of my past.I enjoy the flavor until my tastebuds are assaulted with the conflicting tastes of raisins and olives.
Funny how food does that.It becomes the bookmark by which we remember past experiences or the vivid tastes of food for the first time.Something about taste and flavors sends signals to the brain, singeing memories into our psyches to be recalled at the next bite.You may taste bitterness every time you eat scrambled eggs, recalling the harsh words your parents screamed right before their divorce as you sat by, eating scrambled eggs and ketchup.A cheap hot dog made perfectly with ketchup, mustard and too many raw onions (that you will not doubt regretlater) may conger up memories of running around with your teammates at the ball park growing up.Waiting, and eating hot dogs, before your game began.I will never eat pasta fagioli again without thinking of my Papa and the last meal I remember eating with him, pasta fagioli he had made, cluttered with bright green peas.Tacos were a favorite in my family.We ate tacos often but still not enough for my taste.I remember sometimes running out of sour cream and substituting mayonnaise on our tortillas.I secretly loved the mayonnaise substitution.Not a tear was shed by me when we ran out of sour cream.For some reason, I did not transition from a sour cream to mayo user in my adult life.I use the obligatory sour cream on my tacos like everyone else, except I long for the mayo…or the taste of childhood.As I sit here writing, I am also in the process of making burritos for lunch.Maybe today I’ll use mayo.
Smorgasborg (Futral-Chapman Style)
Ingredients we used during our last meal:
2 eggs fried sunny side up.Ren accidentally broke two eggs while unloading our grocery bag so we cooked them up and added them to the board.
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup bananas
1/2 cup green olives
2 cups lightly fried potatoes and carrots (in olive oil)
2 squirts blue cheese dressing
2 squirts Sri-Racha magic red sauce
Cut all ingredients and serve on a cutting board.Limit cooking, this is lazy supper, remember?Smorgasborg must be communal eaten off the cutting board, preferably with the hands.Forks or chop sticks may be used if absolutely necessary.
*Get creative with the ingredients.Include anything that is on the verge of spoiling.This avoids food waste and makes the smorgasborg interesting.
NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above
Pizza made with a mahi Banff harvested baked in Pavana’s oven,served with a salad on the side.
It seems that of all the foods we crave while adventuring on Nila Girl, which are many, pizza is at the top of the list.It’s hard to find descent pizza in the Bahamas and if you do, it’s not likely to be worth the pretty penny you would spend on it.Ren and I crave Antonio’s Commentatore pie from back home.Lots of sauce, garlic, eggplant, basil and two cheeses perfectly melted on top with just the right amount of cheese grease drip when you fold a slice in half.We miss ordering out a Commentatore and drinking one beer each while we wait for the pizza to be ready for pick up.We pick up the pie and eat it with lots of crushed red pepper while taking in a movie projected on a king sized sheet in our old living room.Next year, we’re bringing the projector with us on our cruise.
As Banff of Pavana, Ren and I perused the grocery aisles in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, we brainstormed about the night’s supper.Within minutes, and almost jokingly, Ren sighed, “Pizza would be good.”I groaned and immediately started pouting, knowing that this wasn’t an option until Banff, a beacon of light on our grim pizza situation, said, “Alright, let’s do the pizza thing.”Banff already had the whole wheat flour and yeast needed to make the dough, which was really the only limiting factor.Pavana was also adequately overstocked with everything we would need for the top of the pizza or anything else your culinary heart desired.In short, Pavana was like a floating grocery store, but not Food Lion.Pavana was a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, complete with organic selections and vegan options.I think I spent a total of $40 shopping at ‘Groceries a la Pavana’.Anyway, Banff already had pizza sauce, soy cheese, jalapenos and mahi to be grilled and added to the top.Nila Girl isn’t exactly shabbily stocked herself.She was to contribute fresh parmesan, straight off the block (thanks to a little Italian ancestry) and a nice big salad with all the fixings.We picked up some mushrooms to add to the top, payed out and met Oreo at the grocery store sliding doors where he was keeping a close eye on the golf cart we rented.
Eager to get back to the boat and start the dough, we finished our uneventful self-guided golf cart tour of Spanish Wells and hopped back into Banff’s dinghy to head back to the strong ships…
Spanish Wells was uneventful if you consider I stayed up half the night researching the small island and it’s history of inbreeding.It is safe to say that I became momentarily obsessed with the history of Spanish Wells, which includes Anglo-Saxon settlers, racial pride, and a long line of inbreeding.I searched the internet for pictures of the people and family trees with branches intertwining like the trunk of a ficus.Needless to say, I was disappointed when we got there.First, the long history of inbreeding was not readily apparent in the people.They looked normal, just with a backwoods sense of style.Second, the place reminded me of my hometown of Richlands, NC but Richlands about 30 years ago.Industrious people with a big red streak in a mostly white town.Nothing unusual about Spanish Wells if you are already from the rural south.
We needed to shower, feed Oreo and pack our “supper time bag” (a waterproof bag made of recycled sailcloth by Ella Vicker’s Recycled Sailcloth Collection, perfect for keeping food items dry on the wet floor of a dinghy) for Pavana.Snapping photos of the locals while heading out of the harbor area, I spotted something strikingly red floating in the water.so red, it reminded me of that scene from the book, The Giver, where the young giver gets his first glimpse of color in an otherwise black and white world.The color he saw was red and the imagery was powerful.We approached the bobbing red objects with caution until…holy geez!The floating red balls were bright ripe tomatoes with the occasional red bell pepper sprinkled in.Apparently a box of fresh tomatoes and peppers had fallen off the dock right into the dinghy’s path, and nobody was claiming them.Guess what goes surprisingly great on pizza…yep!Tomatoes and red bell peppers.
Banff weaved in and out of the crimson gates as Ren and I stretched to retrieve very piece of valuable food we could.Trust me, if retrieving floating food with a dinghy was an olympic sport, we would be representing Team USA.A local, who was working on his boat engine nearby (I told you they were industrious people), noticed us scrambling and joined in on the aqua-harvest.He relinquished his bounty to us poor sailors and we greedily grabbed the goodies.Besides being on a budget, we were Team USA of the Aqua-Harvest event, not him.He should check himself!Ah but the pizza was looking better and better.We wiped the drool from our mouths with our sleeves and continued on to the boats.
The four of us, Oreo was always welcomed on Pavana, met back up on Banff’s boat around 6:30 or 7:00, all freshly showered and hungry.Banff had already let the dough rise and it was time for the art to begin. Ren saddled up on the settee with a cold Budweiser and watched the magic happen.Oreo sat right between my feet and waited for me to drop some magic on the floor.Banff worked on shaping the whole wheat dough and grilling the fish while I threw together the salad and prepped the toppings for the pizza.Cucumbers, chopped spinach, grated parmesan, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and some basil colorfully lit up the stainless steel mixing bowl the salad was contained in.For a dressing, I mixed together olive oil and pear infused balsamic vinaigrette.Banff opted for Amy’s Goddess dressing (a noble choice).When the pizza dough was sculpted, Banff added jarred tomato sauce and swirled in spoonfuls of my Nannie’s homemade pesto, which I will be bringing a lot more of for our next cruise.Pesto is good for a lot more than just pizza and pasta, folks.The base of the pizza was painted perfectly with the sauces before flaked bits of lightly seasoned, grilled mahi were sprinkled in.The already radiant pizza required some more green so chopped spinach and jalapenos were thrown on top.The tomatoes and red bel peppers we found were sliced and delicately arranged on the bed of spinach, offsetting the green.A few sliced mushrooms, the yellow soy cheese and white parmesan…voila!The beauty of the meshing pizza ingredients made the raw colors palatable.
Banff popped our canvas into the oven and the three of us started giggling in anticipation.Oreo did not giggle.In fact, he was pretty pissed that I had prepared my share of the meal without dropping a single slice of anything.Don’t worry, he always gets his share of, well, everything that we cook.So that we didn’t start gnawing our fingers off, we passed the pizza cooking time in the most painless way possible.Ren and I cracked open a couple of beers and the crew settled in for two episodes of the hilarious TV series, 30 Rock.The laughter was the only thing strong enough to distract our appetites.Of course, we checked on the pizza no less than four times while watching.The hardest ten minutes of the evening came when the pizza was taken out of the oven and placed on the counter to cool.Who’s idea was it to let food cool anyway?We stared at the pie and suffered through the last ten minutes of our second episode.
Finally, the moment arrived.The pizza was judiciously served in even amounts to prevent WWIII.Since I am an athlete in training, i got a fair share of the pie too, despite being of the fairer sex.The salad was dispersed, a mere afterthought lying next to the pizza.A fluffy side dish to keep our slices comfortable before we devoured them.We ate, savoring every bite, while watching a third episode of 30 Rock.If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’re walking backwards.We shared a solitary tear when supper was finished and the dishes were licked clean.Banff took Nila Girl’s crew back to our boat and we said our goodbyes.You see, homemade pizza was the perfect last supper to share with our new friend on Pavana.We parted ways with a good taste left in our mouths, already eager for our next encounter with Banff.
Mahi Pizza (Pavana Style)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1 grilled Mahi steak, lightly seasoned
1 cup cheddar or cheese substitute
1/2 cup parmesan (NO substitutes)
1/2 cup canned pizza sauce
1/4 cup pesto
Our Pizza Toppings:
red bell peppers
*Get creative with your toppings.Include on your pizza anything that is on the verge of spoiling.This avoids food waste and makes the pizza interesting.
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup seawater
1 tblsp powdered yeast
1 tblsp sugar (we use agave nectar)
4 cups unbleached flour or wheat flour
Combine yeast warm water sugar and seawater and let stand 5 minutes.Mix in flour and let stand until dough doubles in volume.When dough has doubled, punch down and knead.Let rise again by 50%.Punch and knead again.Take out 1/3 of the dough for the pizza crust.Bake the rest as bread!
Mix “pizza herbs” into the dough (basil, parsley, etc). Spread the dough out on the cooking surface (foil works well on the boat).Cover the dough with pizza sauce and add half the cheese. Let the toppings begin.Add your toppings and cover with the remaining cheese to hold it all together.
Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.Let thepizza cool on a cooling rack for at least 10minutes before cutting.
NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above.