Ode to the Cooks
Posted by Tall Ships America on July 13, 2013
At anchor off Port Dalhousie, Ontario- June 30th
By Brian Holmen
The saying “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” has been brought to light for me, literally. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t leave the kitchen. Two days after Lynx had finished the race out of Toronto we anchored a few miles outside of Port Dalhousie, Ontario with Pride of Baltimore II and Unicorn. Captain Trost of Pride of Baltimore II swam over to Lynx to invite the crew of Unicorn and us to a “Schooner Party” onboard the Pride of Baltimore II that evening. This party was going to be a potluck so all boats were going to be making food.
I was set to do maintenance for the rest of the day, but our cook, Kori, requested a hand in the galley since she was cooking for 40 people instead of 10. I volunteered to help Kori out in the galley, not really sure about what I was getting into.
After lunch, Kori and I started working on preparing the food for that evening’s grand gathering of schooner sailors. Our working space was going to be the small, cramped galley of Lynx. The diesel-powered stove takes an hour to heat, so it has to stay lit. Since the stove is always running, it keeps the galley very toasty. The humid 80-degree weather did not help the situation either.
There were several things we had to take into consideration while we prepared our contribution to the potluck. One was that there were both vegetarian and gluten-free crew members. We decided on Teriyaki beef with a tofu option. We also made a quick rise batch of Italian Herb rolls. For desert there was a spice cake with cream cheese frosting, with a gluten-free crust option.
I started by crushing the Rice Krispies that we had to into a fine powder-like substance for the gluten-free pie we were going to make. I finished that job in a matter of minutes thinking that was pretty easy and this whole cooking thing can’t be that hard. I was very wrong. Kori looked at the crushed Rice Krispies and shook her head. The Rice Krispies weren’t crushed enough so I went back to work. However, I was now behind schedule. In the time it took me to crush the Rice Krispies, Kori had already pulled out all the supplies and started mixing ingredients for the spice cake, which she delegated to me. While I was working away, Kori very nicely turns to me and says, “Brian, I really appreciate your help but I need you to work faster.” We would need every minute of the next five hours to finish this meal.
With the cake in the oven, we moved onto the beef and tofu Teriyaki. By this time Kori and I were starting to slip into a groove. She was starting learn how to work with another person in the small galley and I was working faster. We started slicing up the beef (slightly frozen to make it easier to slice thin) and tofu, and mixing the teriyaki marinade. Kori hand grated fresh ginger, sliced up several onions and threw all the marinade ingredients into a large bowl.
By now two and a half hours have gone by and we had another two and half hours until we had to have the food ready. Looking at what we still had left to do I was starting to feel the pressure. The very small size of the diesel stove means that everything is all about timing, since you can’t bake rolls at the same time you’re baking a cake.
The next thing on the list to take care of were the rolls. Six dozen of them. We mixed all the ingredients into a giant mixing bowl. After a quick lesson in kneading bread I started my batch of rolls. Working quickly I was able to finish my batch of 36 rolls in no time. However, I had created a mess of my workstation. My hands were covered in dough and flour. The table was a mixture of flour, water, egg yolk and dough. Kori again looks at me and says, “The bigger the mess, the longer it takes to clean up, you know. Since it is your first time I won’t worry about it, but I’d get to cleaning sooner rather than later. As in now.” I laughed and got started cleaning the great mess of dough that was in my little working corner.
By this time the heat is really getting to me. I am sweating like crazy. Captain Edick had just made a swim call. Did that mean I could go swimming? Nope. We still had more food to cook. We had a little over an hour now to get the food finished and packaged for its small boat ride over to Pride II.
We put the cream cheese frosting on the spice cake and then my inner child came out. I turned to Kori and said, “Are we done yet?” With a shake of the head I knew that there was much more to be done. The minutes were ticking down and we still had to cook the beef and tofu.
Finally the food was done and we were off to the Pride of Baltimore. For five hour’s Kori and I worked in the galley. It was extremely hot, I was thirsty, I had burned my hand both cleaning dishes and once on the stove, but it was over. Now it was time to show off our work.
I now understand the pride that cooks have. I now understand the pride in yourself when your shipmates complement you on your cooking. I now know that I do not want to be a cook.
Cooks don’t just make the meals, they take care of the crew. Thanks will never be enough. I only did this for one meal. I could not imagine doing this three times a day. To all the cooks in the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® vessels, thank you. What you guys do is amazing.