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Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Monday, January 9, 2012

Food, Glorious Food!

Pizza for Five and the Dog                   Photo courtesy John Herschenrider

 “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
  Virginia Woolf

“Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Food is one of the great pleasures of life. We break bread with friends, lovers, family. Food fuels our bodies, raises our spirits, inspires creativity.

Taste, of course, and smell whelm our senses. Texture? Very important. The sound of foods sizzling, simmering, crunching, being chopped. And oh, don't our eyes delight in its colors and shapes!

Important, obviously.

So how do we get along, in such a small boat? No refrigerator? Miles and miles from the nearest store?

Anke and I try to keep a year's supply of food on board. This lets us get away from towns on an indefinite basis, without having to hurry anywhere for resupply. Should things go south for whatever reason, it's a margin of safety... a cushion between us and hard knocks. Should health or the economy fail, we aren't worried about the next meal.

A year's supply is one of those loose figures that doesn't stand up to too close scrutiny. Halfway between resupply, we've eaten through some portion of that. A lot of our food comes from sea and shore, so while it counts, it's only metaphorically on board.

We label containers by type and date, then rotate (eat oldest first). Top off once or twice a year.

  • Rice and lentils @ 2:1 - By complementarity theory, this yields complete protein. Tastes good, true or not. Both cook at the same rate, same pot.
  • Beans - Beans, beans, the magical froot!
  • Wheat - Whole kernel, grind as we go.
  • Sprouting Seeds - We sprout these mainly in winter for fresh greens. 
We calculate total starchy stores at 1/2 cup of dried goods per person per day, which works out to about 1 pound per day for the two of us, or about 375lbs. This is pretty generous, but never hurts to round up. At about 25lbs per 4 gallon square bucket, that's 15 buckets.

  • Seaweeds - Abundant year round. Dry or pickle preserve.
  • Wild Greens - We try to pick twice what we eat, to dry for winter stews.
  • Wild Fruits - Berries, mostly. Available about a third of the year. Haven't dried many, but would like to get set up for it.
  • Fish - Mostly cod, dolly varden and pink salmon... small stuff. Perfect for dinner with some left over for breakfast. Mmm-mmm.
  • Eggs - Keep for 4+ months with no cooler. Turn weekly and test for floating (bad) and crack into separate bowl toward the end. We eat 3 per day, together, and stock 15 dozen at a go.
  • Pasta - Spaghetti stows compactly and can count toward starchy carbs.
  • Corn and Oats - Add variety for baking.
  • Vegetable Oil - One oil fits all. A gallon lasts us about a month and a half.
  • Vinegar - Balsamic, apple and white. Like to make berry vinegar, eventually.
  • Cheese - A friend, who saw us carting 100lbs down the dock, said, "I know what you're not going to be doing!" About 1lb per person per week.
  • Dried Fruits - These come out far cheaper than fresh (in AK), since you're not paying for water. We have probably 250lbs in 4g buckets, some of which goes into wine.
  • Tomato Paste - Those li'l 6oz cans are way versatile and go a long way. 
  • Peanut Butter and Almonds - Nuts, to you. Expensive, so 50lbs?
  • Sugar and Honey - For baking, wine (could make vinegar, in a pinch).
  • Spices - Smallish, versatile set. Includes liquid vanilla, smoke and hot sauce. Brewer's yeast. Cocoa.
  • Leaveners - Yeast and baking powder (non-aluminum).
  • Coffee - Whole bean, grind as we go. About 3lbs per month for the two of us.
  • Chocolate - Cheapest in chip form. Okay as a snack, better baked. That's a good thing!
  • Green Olives - Expensive, too.
Only the eggs are perishable (cheese just gets better with time). Only a few are liquid. We may have 'guest stars' - special luxuries like fresh produce, or a chicken - but they have to be eaten promptly.

Our compact galley holds a little of everything; enough for a week+. An easy access grab-box holds replacements. It's replenished in turn from deep storage in the holds. If the weather's wet, this system gives us a chance to wait for a break before digging deep.

Containers are air-tight. Glass jars in galley shelves; ziplocs in plastic totes organize the holds.

Cookware consists of pressure cooker, quart pot, teapot, coffepot, nested steel bowls, pie pans and combo cooker (deep frypan with a shallow one that fits as a lid for dutch oven). A few of the usual utensils, mugs, plates, flatware.

No sink... fresh water is poured from jerrycan on deck into the coffepot (used only for water... coffee in french press) or saltwater dipped via side-flaps. A stack of four washbasins can handle a number of jobs. Wash up at the galley, standing in the companionway or on deck in clement weather.

Half the fun of cooking, for us, is to leverage these few ingredients into a wide range of combinations. Ersatz (substitution) cooking is a challenge, and surprisingly effective. Dishes can be concocted without a single ingredient from the original, yet which manage to embody its spirit. I should mention that Anke has a gift for improvisational cuisine!

Oops... gotta run. Dinner's callin'!


  1. Root vegetables, in the luxuries category? I keep wanting to try the pack in moist sand strategy, or perhaps in something lighter. Potatoes have done well in the cool area along the hull, when traveling in cold water. Not so much carrots -- I think they really need the moist sand or sawdust or something.

    Do you do anything to keep sprout seeds in good condition? We've had trouble with them going bad in a surprisingly short amount of time, while in storage before sprouting. Now I'm looking at vacuum packaging in a "food saver" type bag, to try to stave that off. But maybe there's a better way?

    Cheers, Shemaya

  2. Shemaya,

    They're 'luxuries' due to lots of water weight. We've considered potato flakes, but the 'starchy carb' category is efficiently filled by the rice and lentil base. Even wheat is a luxury, but there are so many things one can do with gluten!

    Sprouts are definitely "use 'em or lose 'em". We try to grow just enough for several days, about our limit (in AK's cooler temps). Good rinsing and ventilation while sprouting extends their life, as does a clean environment.

    They have a short natural limit. Since they are pre-clorophyllic and grown without soil, they're running on internal reserves until the tank's empty. Then they die. For the most nutritional value, you want to partake of their youth.

    We get the longest life by storing them in brown paper lunch bags, only loosely closed and stored out of a draft (which dries them up at the edges). This seems to keep 'em hydrated just right (they rot if too wet), dark (somewhat dormant) and away from spores.

    Lunch bags are sold in packs for cheap and are good with any fruit or veggie. Many plants outgas in ways detrimental to their colleagues, so bag them separately. They can be reused for a surprisingly long time, but once mold EVER appears, it's kindling time for that bag.

    Some of the new plastic 'keeper bags' work too, and can be reused many, many times. But they're a pain to wash, dry and store. And at the end of the day, they're a hunk o' plastic.

  3. I ought to have mentioned:

    Whole seeds keep almost indefinitely if keep cool and dry. The secret is that they are alive.

    Grinding, roasting, splitting, cracking... all these kill the seed and it immediately begins to oxidize (go stale). There is then a relatively short period of tolerable quality before it becomes first noticably stale, then obnoxiously so.

    Storing whole and live, processing more or less as you need, extends storage time immensely.

    Even dead stuff (roasted coffee, I mean YOU!) does better if kept whole. Grinding increases surface area by an order of magnitude. Once a package is opened, it oxidizes by the square micrometer. The more the area, the faster it goes downhill.

  4. Hi Dave,
    the brown bag strategy sounds great for already-sprouted. It was indeed the dry seeds I was wondering about -- sounds like you have not had problems. Maybe our seeds were mishandled before we bought them at the local store -- they were indeed kept cool and dry while stored in the house and on the boat. They were fine when recently purchased, but after a few months and then soaked for sprouting they turned out nasty. Off smell and taste, even though many were growing. Several batches were thrown out, from different long-stored batches of seeds. Hmmm... mystery ongoing!
    -- Shemaya

  5. Hi Shemaya,

    Hmm... that IS a mystery. One we haven't encountered. Our sprouts were from Mt. Peoples Co-op, and packed in sealed mylar bags.

    They're from the last millennium (Y2K prep vintage). Once open, a pound bag lasts us a good chunk of a couple of years (most use in spring and autumn... summer unneeded and in winter, a hassle to keep warm). Still never had a problem...

    My only guess is that there's something wrong with your initial seeds. Either they weren't dried correctly, or brought some seed eating pathogen with them. Try another source?

    Here's a link for deep info on drying (most sites just say "really dry" as the goal):