What’s Cookin’?

16 Mar
The trouble with feeding a family is that it is relentless.  It can be fun to prepare a good meal – chopping vegetables, sniffing at the pot bubbling on the stove, watching everyone’s smiling face as they dig in.  And then, zip! it’s gone, you have a stack of dirty dishes in the sink and, four hours later, everyone is hungry again.  But the fact is, whether cooking is satisying or not, we all need to eat.  Even I can’t survive on crackers and cheese forever.
I have run the gamut on kitchens from Well-Equipped Western World Standard to Fire On Beach.  And you might be surprised how they stack up against each other.

Cooking Aboard
I have a decent galley on Papillon, with a propane oven/stovetop.  The cooking surface isn’t huge, but it will do.  The stove is gimballed, so one can conceivably cook underway, but it is a risky business, and I have no desire to repeat my severe burn from last May.  But I can fit a large pot on the stove, and roast a chicken in the oven, so it works.  When the flame in the oven doesn’t blow itself out.
Even Erik gets into the act sometimes.  He isn’t much for nutritious cooking, but he makes a mean beignet.  Mostly because he likes using the multimeter to check the oil temperature.
Let’s fry some dough!
Beach Party
Everyone knows you can cook marshmallows and hot dogs over an open fire.  It is almost foolproof.  The photo at the head of this post shows Erik prepping a fire for Indy’s birthday picnic in Raroia.  The result?  Delicious sausages served on giant clam shells.
Condiments and birthday cake not shown.
But that is kids’ stuff.  Real cruisers can make you a ten-course meal over an open fire.  Popcorn, potatoes, steak, fish, lentils, dampers (bread on a stick), onions… you would be amazed.  And it tastes really good.
Chef sets the temperature with skill and precision.
Don’t be concerned about those extra arms – it was Hallowe’en.
 With a little grill, it becomes even easier.
Beats the heck out of a microwave.
The Oil Drum
My big test came in Raraka, when we stayed on a friend’s motu for a few weeks.  I can’t say I’d ever considered using an old oil drum for anything other than, well, oil, but in point of fact, it mkaes an excellent oven.
I kid you not.
The blue door at the bottom is hinged – the wood goes in here.  Approximately level with the handles is a grill.  Light the fire, get the temperature right, lift the lid, put your food on the grill, and off you go.  I made bread, butter tarts and chocolate cake in that oil drum, and they all turned out beautifully.  I am still amazed.
As a side benefit, cleaning up on the motu is easy.  Why?  Because if you leave your pots out, the ungas (giant hermit crabs) will clean them for you.  The girls delighted in shining a light on the hundreds of ungas working away at the cooking pots left on the beach every night.  In the morning, the pot needs a quick rinse, and you’re done.
Best dishwasher ever.
Apartment Kitchen
I thought having a regular kitchen was going to be a cinch.  Everything is easy!  You have acres of counter space.  The fridge opens in front.  How could anyone complain?
This is my kitchen.  There is a gas stovetop.  It’s okay; most of the burners work most of the time.  But down below is a convection oven/grill/microwave contraption.  And I do not love it.  As Stylish would say, “it’s not my favourite.”  Which is a polite way to say, “it stinks.”  I can cook things in it.  And they turn out okay.  But it isn’t nearly as good as the oil drum, boat oven, or even the open fire.
I suppose cooking isn’t nearly as tough as we make it; a few good ingredients will take you a long way.  But this post has reminded me – it’s time to get back to some outdoor living.
Birthday cake of champions.


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