You may or may not know that one of my professions is Personal Chef. That is, I go to people’s homes and cook for them - either multiple meals at one cooking session, or one-time small event (party) catering “dinner for two to two hundred.”
Moving aboard put, shall we say, a certain crimp in my culinary style. I have a two burner propane stove, very little storage space, even less work counter, and a 1 cubic foot (!) 12V solar powered cooler that began life as a literal icebox. No oven, no microwave. My Spice Rack is now limited to an 8” x 10” space. I have two small drawers for utensils. Counter space is non existent unless I use the dinette table. Running water has not been hooked up in this boat for a number of years, so I have gallon jugs. Down the road I may remedy that.
All that means that One Pot type meals are this shantyboater’s friend, whether prepared in a skillet or a stove top Dutch Oven. I’m not just talking soups and stews here; there are lots of fabulous One Pot meals that are not primarily liquid. That also means that I have to get creative in my galley kitchen, especially since I’m trying to eat healthier to counter my Type II diabetes and high cholesterol. So I don’t do the single cruiser’s (or landlubber’s) usual fare of canned or packaged dinners like mac & cheese, canned soups and chili, or spagetti Os. Also no frozen TV dinners. All that stuff is too high in salt, fat and carbs for my new lifestyle.
One good thing is that I don’t mind eating the same tasty thing day after day. EMPHASIS ON TASTY! I once had pizza for lunch every day for months in a row; and SOS (yummy) for breakfast nearly every day of the four years I was in the Air Force. While on Kwaj, I ate a two egg omelet with ham & cheese every day for two years. This make shopping for food a LOT easier!
Because of space requirements, and a desire for more fresh, less canned foods, I bicycle a mile or so to the grocery store usually every other day. This is also part of my diet & exercise program as well as my retirement austerity measures (no car).
Here's a photo of a Boater's Sandwich that I created a few years ago for a Boating TV recipe contest. I won first prize, but through a whole series of SNAFUs, never got my prize.
I like steel cut oatmeal. Normally it takes 30 minutes of simmering - but on the boat that’s ‘way too long and too expensive in fuel. But I found McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, a steel cut style oat that cooks in only 5 minutes and tastes just as good as the slow cook oats. With a dollop of marmalade for sweetener I get a tasty 600 calorie breakfast.
When I can borrow a microwave an a blender for 10 minutes, I make my own marmalade. Yep - 10 minutes. Chop some citrus fruit - say a grapefruit, or a couple lemons and/or a couple limes. Include the seeds, skin, pith, everything (the pectin is in the skin and pith). Take the fruit for a spin until it’s just short of a true puree. Measure as you transfer the fruit to a microwave safe glass bowl, and add the same amount of sugar, cup for cup. Stir. Nuke on High for 4 minutes. Stir and taste again. Too sweet add more fruit; too tart, add more sugar. Nuke again for 4 more minutes. Transfer to snap top containers and store in your fridge. Will keep in a regular fridge for several months.
Now Florida, in a marina, in the summer time, is just too darn hot for preparing oatmeal, even at sunrise. So during the hot part of the year I make a 600 calorie breakfast out of a dozen or so pretzel-crackers, a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, and an apple or orange. Breakfast is your most important meal, and it’s really helped me to go back to eating a regular breakfast.
For lunches I normally make one of a dozen variations of tuna salad using an entire can. I stuff this into pita halves usually, but sometimes change up with tortilla wraps. Occasionally I change things up with an olive roll and cold cuts from the grocery deli. Along with my sandwich I also have a piece of fruit and a 60-100 calorie individual pudding (the ones I get require no refrigeration. Sometimes I’ll have a small bag of some sort of chips instead of the pudding. Again, I’m eating pretty close to a 600 calorie meal with around 20 grams of carbs.
When I’m cooking for myself, meals aren’t an Event so much as they are fuel stops. When I cook for Sally or a group, I’m making a production out of mealtime. Cooking and eating with someone is much more pleasureable.
By myself, I make a variety of one pot meals. I like ham, and the local grocery sells blister packaged ham steaks about 3/8” thick and 4-6” in diameter. Combined in a skillet with a fresh vegetable like fried brussel sprouts, sliced zucchini, sautéed celery, or carrot ribbons, and I have a really tasty meal. These ham steaks are fully cooked, so on really hot days I can eat them without cooking, making a Ham Chef’s Salad, for example.
I also eat Spam. All jokes aside, it’s not all that bad, particularly if you buy the Lite and/or Low-Sodium versions. They also make a great Turkey product, and Smoked products. If all you see is the original, nag your local grocer. I lived out in the Pacific, where you find “potted meat” in vending machines. Spam, as a brand name is pretty darn good. But beware some of the Aussie and Asian canned meats - they run as high as 50% fat!!!! That’s not Good Eats! Again the advantage to a liveaboard is that these products are fully cooked and can be eaten as-is. Without firing up a stove on a 90+F day.
In the canned veg department, I buy corn, white or gold hominy, beets, garbanzos, beans of several kinds, and occasionally mixed veg. I’ll doctor up things with individual cups of salsa (red or verde), Sazon spice packets, or a small can of fruit cocktail. My spice selection also gets a workout.
Fresh vegetables and fruit are available not only at the local grocery but at a weekly Farmer’s Market which is even closer. Again,because of storage issues, I only buy enough for a couple days at a time.
I also buy packages of chicken, pork, and beef, just like landlubbers. However, I get the smallest packages I can - ¾ lb or less - and split that protein over two or three night’s dinners. If I can’t find a small package, I’ll ask the meat department to break a larger package down for me. Often for dinner I’ll have just a protein and a salad. I figure I get enough carbs in my day from breakfast and lunch.
On the boat I only buy and cook fish the same day. It’s too easy for fish to go bad without really good refrigeration, and I sure don’t want food poisoning.
Like other facets of living aboard, food and meals require some thought and some “downsizing” unless you’re aboard a 40 foot trawler with a conventional sized refrigerator and storage space. But for this liveaboard those are welcome challenges, not restrictions.