Before embarking on the Great Loop, my husband Tim and I lived in New York City, which helped prepare us somewhat for life on the water. We took our clothes to a laundromat, hand washed our dishes, and understood the challenges of living in a small space. But given it’s one of the culinary capitals of the world, living in Manhattan didn’t teach us how to cook. Since living on our boat, a 31-foot 1996 Camano Troll named Sweet Day, we had to change our relationship with the kitchen, which means we actually had to use it. Here’s what we learned.
Be Creative with What We Have
While cruising the Great Loop, we imagined tiki bars and restaurants dotting the shorelines everywhere we stopped. This is definitely true in some parts. But more times than expected, we found ourselves nowhere near a place to grab a meal, much less a grocery store.
This means we’ve learned how to build meals with what we have onboard. We also realized that as long as we have flour and a little butter, homemade tortillas can easily transform a couple sides into tasty tacos and easily impress neighbors at the next docktail party.
Rarely Waste Food
In the daily hustle of our lives in the city, we ended up wasting a lot more food than we’d like to admit. The opposite has been true while cruising. We typically buy enough fresh food for three to four meals, because that’s all we can fit in our fridge. A home-cooked dinner is easily stretched to lunch the next day. And since we travel with our fridge, leftovers never get left behind.
No Need for Fancy Kitchen Gadgets
We have a small propane oven and a three-burner stove. We can use these with barely any electricity, making cooking underway and at anchor seamless. When we’re plugged into a marina or if we run our generator, we can also use our microwave (when it’s not being used as a food pantry).
Some cruisers have Instapots and other gadgets, but our boat isn’t set up to handle that amount of electricity. Plus, we don’t have the space. So, we’ve had to learn (with a lot of practice) how to cook juicy chicken or tender salmon without the benefits of modern cooking technology.
Access Our Kitchen 24/7
One of the biggest (and underrated) benefits of cruising is that your stuff travels with you, including your kitchen. This means we can make a marinade while cruising and cook the chicken at anchor that night. Or knead a loaf of bread underway to make sure it’s ready to bake the next day. Plus, you never have to worry about forgetting olive oil or spices when on a trip. Spending time and experimenting in the kitchen helps break up those long cruising days too, all while rewarding us with a tasty meal once we reach our destination.
Know the Steps Ahead of Time to Plan a Meal
One quirk of our galley is we can only run the oven or the stove, as our propane system can’t support running both at the same time. As a result, it requires knowing the recipe and its steps in advance to ensure we have the right equipment and ability to cook the meal. If the meal is good enough to be part of the rotation, the steps become easier to remember the next time we cook it.
Learn What Meals We Can Make Quickly
Just like land life, there are days when we may feel excited about prepping and cooking a more time-intensive meal, and others when we’re hungry, it’s 7:00 p.m. and we just need to get something in our stomach. In New York, that meant heading downstairs for a slice of pizza.
That doesn’t work while cruising. Learning what meals take time (especially in Sweet Day’s kitchen) and what meals can be thrown together quickly (hello mac and cheese and tuna fish) is extremely helpful. When we’re stocking up on food, we make sure we have enough of those go-to meal items for those inevitable times when we just need something fast.
To help you stock your galley, here are some of our favorite items:
- High-quality all-purpose knife: Our Zwilling Santoku knife cuts pretty much everything we’ve cooked in the last year.
- Dutch oven: This is perfect for baking fresh bread, making soups, rice and other meals. We store it in the oven while not in use.
- Stainless steel French press: We didn’t want to have to rely on electricity to make coffee, so our go-to is a sturdy French press. Plus, it’s fun to get beans from local coffee shops.
- New York Times cooking subscription: This app allows us to easily search tons of recipes and discover new dishes with ingredients we have on board.
- Pre-cut parchment paper: I learned this from my dad. It keeps food from sticking to the pan and makes cleaning easy — a big plus on a tiny boat, where you may need to clean the pan quickly to put another item in the oven.
SIMPLE FLOUR TORTILLAS
Here’s our go-to recipe for an easy batch of tortillas. Some of our favorite ingredients for stuffing inside are pantry staples — black beans and rice or roasted sweet potatoes with a charred scallion crema (Greek yogurt, mayo and scallions charred on a hot skillet).
- 2 1⁄2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
- 1⁄4 cup room temperature butter (Can also replace with shortening, lard or vegetable oil)
- 7⁄8 to 1 cup of hot water
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add the butter (if you’re using vegetable oil, add it in step 3). Use your fingers to work the fat into the flour until it disappears.
- Pour in the lesser amount of hot water (plus the oil, if you’re using it), and stir briskly with a fork or whisk to bring the dough together into a shaggy mass. Stir in additional water as needed to bring the dough together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is very sticky, gradually add a
bit more flour.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly and allow them to rest, covered, for about 30 minutes.
If you wish, coat each ball lightly in oil before covering to ensure the dough doesn’t dry out.
- While the dough rests, preheat an ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat, about 400°F.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 8 inches in diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Fry the tortilla in the ungreased pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Wrap the tortilla in a clean cloth when it comes off the griddle to keep it pliable. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
- If you have leftovers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in an ungreased skillet or for a few seconds in the microwave.
Recipe is from King Arthur Baking Company, kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/simple-tortillas-recipe. To follow Kate and Tim Carney’s cruising adventures aboard Sweet Day, go to lifeonsweetday.com or @lifeonsweetday on Instagram.