- by Carol Standish
This time of year, a cookbook for boaters is what seed catalogs are for gardeners-the inspiration for the dream of summer. A cross between a coffee table gem full of dazzling photographs and a fairly hard core how-to manual on cooking up a storm, Feasts Afloat (Ten Speed Press, 160pp, $19.95) is a pleasure for all senses. High-summer blue-water sailing scenes, secluded beaches, ocean sunsets and gleaming classic yachts are complemented with equally mouth-watering recipes and photos of the meals served aboard.
Authors, Jennifer Trainer Thompson and Elizabeth Wheeler, having logged over 25,000 sea miles from Pulpit Harbor to New Guinea, know whereof they cook and write. Wheeler trained at the Culinary Institute of America and cooked aboard for the likes for William F. Buckley, Jr. She, as cook, met Thompson, second mate, on a boat delivery to Virgin Gorda from Mount Desert in the 1970s. They first produced the Yachting Cookbook in 1991 and Feasts Afloat is the latest (2000) edition of the award winning collaboration.
"Although we have had the pleasure of cooking on large, luxurious yachts, (and the photos corroborate the statement) we gained much of our experience by slugging it out in galleys with two burners, a cooler, and buckets of sea water," says Thompson in her introduction. The sailor-cooks emphasize simplicity, "…one can create a gracious meal with a minimum of fuss…" as well as an imaginative approach toward cooking. "Next to a well-developed sense of humor-the best attribute a sea cook can cultivate is flexibility…"
The 150 recipes, are extremely varied-from cowboy coffee over a fire on shore to grilled filet of beef on the 74 foot John Hay Whitney yacht Aphrodite, served on the original Minton china. Included in between the two extremes are recipes for easy but unusual dinners afloat such as pork and black bean chili, a variety of chowders, linguica with peppers and chicken jambalaya. A large section of the book is devoted to grills and grilling. The picnics ashore chapter offers complete instructions for a New England clambake as well as super simple fare like tomato and mozzarella sandwiches and cucumber and yogurt soup. A great array of salads is presented in the Easy Midday Salads section-white beans and tuna, pickled beets and onions with shrimp, marinated steak, among others. Sweets, desserts and snacks are fully addressed. In fact, an intense experience cooking for an offshore racing team taught the authors the importance of plentiful snacks and treats.
The book is designed with marginalia full of useful hints and tips-for cooking in heavy weather, storage tricks, preventing spills, grilling fish, making yogurt, galley design and so on. Here and there pithy comments from authors and other sailors provide a good chuckle. "Don't fry bacon in your birthday suit," is the professional advice given by circumnavigators, Mimi and Dan Dyer.
Although the recipes are methodically organized by venue and occasion the authors insist that flexibility is paramount. Alternative recipes and suggestions for substitutions are provided throughout. A boat isn't even necessary to use the book. "Basically, Feasts Afloat explains how to make the best food under the worst conditions." They've done it beautifully.