A spoonful of inspiration.
Lobster quiche made with a lobster Ren harvested baked in our gimbaled oven with a side of grapefruit.
Genesis of Nila’s Galley
From the early emergence of our plan to purchase a sailboat, then live and travel on her, the boat’s galley became of particular interest to me. Ren would lie in bed looking at hundreds of potential Nila Girls passing the laptop to me when he found one that met our criteria. He would point out the more integral aspects of the bateau du jour while I acted interested and twiddled my thumbs until he graciously let me off the hook and skipped to the pictures of the inside of the boat. I wanted a good look at my territory. The part of the boat I would be allowed to make into a home, where we would sleep, eat, entertain guests, work on the computer and most importantly, cook.
We both love food and have always eaten well. It is important to us to fill our bodies with good fuel and love every minute of it. Eating is social and brings people together, family, friends and strangers alike. Try going to a cookout or friend’s dinner party without noticing at least one or two people with their cameras out, shooting the food. We all love to eat and we all love a beautiful meal. Through pictures, we make new, brilliant art out of the chef’s craft. From early on, it was not hard to get me excited about food and the prospect of eating. I vividly remember a moment in college when my brother, Corey and I lived together. My brother announced that we would make tacos for supper (a family favorite growing up, and still is mine). I broke out in dance and song, jumping around our apartment in anticipation. “Man,” Corey said. “I’ve never seen anyone get so excited about food before.” Anticipation is a funny thing. As our friend, Branff suggests, anticipation is often worse than the thing itself. Not true for food, bring on the anticipation! I want the thought of the food to melt in my brain much like it will melt later, in my mouth.
As the captain of Nila Girl, Ren has imminent domain over most of the boat. He controls the engine room, where I didn’t bat an eye when he informed me that we were driving down to Florida to purchase a “new” engine. He rigged the boat and spent countless hours and pennies outfitting the topside, making sure she would perform safely and still look good. Function over form of course but form becomes more important when you are considering spending a substantial amount of time in a small space. I wanted to love and be proud of our boat. As Ren controls the topside, I can flex my authority over the inside. I wanted new cushions, he sewed some up. The floor was rotten looking, we got a new one. The walls were bare, we added pictures and art. The galley counters were outdated, Ren resurfaced them.
Although I have considerable power in the belly of the beast, it became apparent early on that we were not making the boat purchasing decision based on the arrangement of the living quarters. Having the exact galley style that I wanted was not a consideration with our budget (next time it will be). However, I persevered. When we finally decided on a boat and brought our Nila Girl home, we set to making the galley right. We fought over how much room I could consume with cookware. Ren argued that I only needed one pan to cook everything in. HA!! If any of you out there are foodies, you know that this is like saying, “Yeah, Ren. Just bring the sawzall, you can do everything you need with that right?” It’s just not so. We settled on me taking up as much space as I needed to bring all the tools of my trade, which equated to four cabinets for cookware, one for dry storage, one non-working refrigerator compartment for dry storage and one spice cabinet. This may sound like a lot of space to dedicated to the galley but this is my art. I cannot sing or draw. I cannot just pick up the guitar and understand how all the strings work, even with practice. I cannot paint would like to try. I love to express myself and feel jealous towards those who have a real talent for art. Cooking is my art. I love to research and read about it. Not just recipes, although they are great to muse over for inspiration. I like to read “The Salt”, the NPR food blog. I like the Food Network, although we have not had TV in years. I like to have an extra hour or two to just start throwing things together, using whatever is in the galley to create something that is not only lovely and presented well (which is why I love the colorful Fiesta-ware my parents bought us for our wedding) but something that nourishes our bodies (including Oreo) and makes Ren happy. He takes care of 75% of everything required to sail us from one place to the next. Our lives are in his hands and it feels good at the end of the day to let him tap away at the computer or read a book while I make something that feels like a reward for his efforts.
One thing I held fast about when we began traveling is making sure that we did not alter our eating lifestyles to fit the boat. This means, I went to great lengths to try to provision Nila Girl adequately so that we did not resort to eating like we were out camping (which we eat pretty well camping too but that’s an entirely different story). I didn’t want Ramen Noodles or tons of canned food, both foreign to us in our kitchen at home. I wanted to have every spice, vinegar and oil that was used at home to make our meals. I read and read about cooking on boats, provisioning the galley, etc. and found a lot of useful information about food storage and proper preservation. However, a lot was still lacking in the cooking aspect of the galley. Sure, in a pinch I’d like to have a can of black beans to open. Sure it’s harder to find EVERYTHING you need, all the time, to make homemade salsa but come on! The proper cheese grater was on board, a throng of knives was at my disposal, three cutting boards of different sizes, a juicer, chopsticks, the Magic Bullet, and of course the kitchen sink. Why would I have to learn to cook from a can when I had all the resources to cook like at home? NIla Girl was home now and I wouldn’t compromise our health or dignity by indulging in a new and less dignified cooking style.
I learned to cook aboard Nila Girl. It was a seamless transition. She is only lacking in counter space and extra space on the stovetop to have two pots going, but only if I want to use my big pan, otherwise, the two burner, gimbaled stove works just fine. The oven is completely operational too, and has proved to be a major asset (gotta have cornbread once in a while). A lot of books and resources warned against using real dishes aboard a boat. One guy even suggested to us that he uses dog bowls because they don’t break or slide when sailing. No, no, no, no, no, no! I would not serve our meals in dog bowls and especially not to guests. Don’t get me wrong, the functionality of the decision to use dog bowls does not elude me. I’m just not doing it. Would you use dog bowls at your supper table? Neither would I just because my table sways from side to side a little bit. We use real coffee mugs, real plates, real cookware, real everything, and have yet to break anything. Because we heel over while sailing in our mono-hull I did take extra measures and placed a small piece of bubble wrap between each of the six dishes we have on board. This has worked wonderfully to prevent movement of the dishes and to prevent the dishes from getting scratched from the constant undulation of Nila’s hull.
The galley is one of my biggest sources of pride here on the boat. Ren swells my head during every meal with grunts of satisfaction and the occasional plate licking (a bad habit). I’m not even sure if I can cook well or if he’s just really hungry all the time. Either way, we have taken colorful picture after picture of our meals aboard Nila Girl and other friendly sailboats. Through the new series, Nila Girl’s “Gourmet” Galley, I hope to whet your appetite while sharing these pictures with you. I would like to tell you all about Pavana and everything I have learned about the galley and eating in general from her solo crew. I would like to share a few recipes and ideas along the way too. Mostly, I would like to share our gastronomic experiences with you, appealing to your sense of form along the way.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1 sizable lobster tail
1 graham cracker crust (ours was store bought but homemade would surely be better)
1/2 cup freshly grated parm
1/2 cup freshly grated cheddar
1/3 cup milk (we used dry milk)
3/4 cup finely chopped spinach
1 tbl cumin
generous amount of fresh ground pepper
pinch of salt (unless your drinking water contains salt, as ours does)
Steam lobster in 1/2 of water until meat is white all the way through. Cut tail down the middle and peel meat out. Chop lobster until fairly fine. Beat eggs and milk. When beaten thoroughly, add half of the parm and half of the cheddar (reserving the rest for later), lobster, spinach, spices and lobster. Pour mixture into graham cracker crust and place on baking sheet, uncovered, in oven. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
When done, add remaining parm and cheddar to top of quiche and let bake another 5 minutes. Pull quiche out of oven and let cool 10-15 minutes for settling before cutting.
NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above.